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Federal government tells states not to hold vaccine in reserve for second dose

The next phase is being opened up for those age 65 and older and for those younger with comorbid conditions.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

The federal government is no longer holding back doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for the second booster shot needed for immunization.

There is enough of a supply from the pharma manufacturers to get more people vaccinated while still ensuring that those who have already received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine will be able to get their second dose, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

In addition, to further efforts that vaccines are not left sitting on freezer shelves, Operation Warp Speed is opening up the next phase of vaccinations for those aged 65 and older and for those younger who have comorbid conditions.

States should not wait to complete one priority phase before starting the next, he said. OWS is giving states two weeks' notice of this shift to give them the time necessary to plan and to improve their reporting if they think their data is faulty.

Also, OWS wants states to open up facilities other than hospitals, such as community centers and pharmacies, to administer the shots.

While OWS has partnered with 19 pharmacy chains, it is up to governors to determine the distribution process for each state.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Nearly 38 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, including 25 million first doses, have been made available to states to order, with more available this week, according to Azar.

"Over the last several days, we've averaged around 700,000 reported vaccinations each day, and we are on track to hit one million per day in a week to ten days' time," Azar said.

Nine million vaccinations have been given.

The bottleneck is in getting vaccines into arms. States are holding back supply to make sure there is enough for the second dose, which is required 21 to 28 days after the first dose, depending on which vaccine is administered.

It's still imperative that people receive their second doses on time. But the government can now shift all doses held in reserve, Azar said.

The supply of the vaccine exceeds the amount needed to get shots into arms in the priority populations in Group 1A including healthcare workers and residents of long term care facilities, Azar said.

Azar said this would likely be his last call with the OWS team. Biden has named California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as his choice to become the new HHS secretary.

THE LARGER TREND

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has released the CMS Pandemic Plan, which details the response and actions CMS uses to support the country's healthcare system and its beneficiaries during the coronavirus public health emergency.

The plan ensures CMS' business operations and functions will continue and outlines the use of waivers and flexibilities to support states, providers and external stakeholders. It also details regulatory relief to healthcare providers on the frontlines.
 

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com