US states are finally picking up the pace of their COVID-19 vaccination programs, so much so that many have already vaccinated so many of their health care workers and elderly residents that they are ready to expand eligibility.
At least 28 states and Washington, DC, have begun vaccinating teachers and at least 19 – including California, New York and Illinois – have started giving shots to people with underlying health conditions that put them at risk.
But that encouraging progress is being held up as states run out of doses to give. Some are even delaying expanding eligibility due to shortages.
So far, nearly 53.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given in the US and 11.8 percent of the population has had one or more doses.
Just shy of 1.7 million doses are being given a day, but states that are excelling at vaccination, like West Virginia, are hamstrung by dose shortages.
Vaccinations have slowly increased as eligibility has expanded in the US, but now states are running into dose shortages
West Virginia has used up more than 98% of its vaccine supply and raced ahead of every other state, but it hasn’t gotten enough dose to expand eligibility as fast as it could give out doses. Overall, 11.8% of Americans have had one or more doses
West Virginia, with some of the worst rates of deaths of despair, obesity and heart disease in the US has become the dark horse of vaccinations.
The state has given at least one dose of vaccine to nearly 14 percent of its population – well above the national average – according to data from Bloomberg.
But its speedy campaign is being slowed, health officials there say.
‘With a short supply of vaccines nationwide, the state is currently focused on vaccinating West Virginians 65 and older along with health care workers and teachers 50 years and older,’ Allison Adler, director of communications for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, told DailyMail.com in an email.
‘Right now, West Virginia needs more vaccines and continues to ask for more so we can get them in arms as quickly as possible.’
According to the health department’s own vaccine tracker, West Virginia has given first doses to 254,646 people as of Monday.
It has administered an incredible 106.2 percent of its first doses – a feat accomplished by extracting extra doses from vials of Pfizer’s vaccine, thereby stretching the supply.
The state has also given 97.3 percent of the 144,4000 second doses it was allocated.
On January 26, President Biden promised that states would see a 16 percent bump in the number of vaccine doses they received the following week, beginning Monday, February 1.
He also said that states would be notified how many doses they will receive three weeks in advance.
But West Virginia hasn’t seen shipments increase that much.
It has received 11,700 first doses and 11,700 second doses of Pfizer’s vaccine each week since December 21, 2020.
This week, its allocation of Moderna doses increased to 18,500 of each first and second doses – but that marks just an eight percent bump from its previous allocation of 17,100 doses a week.
Despite the requests to increase its shipments, and the remarkably smooth rollout of vaccines in West Virginia, that state is having to ration doses rather than give them to more people.
And it’s not the only state facing this problem.
At least four other states – North Dakota, New Mexico, Utah and Montana – have used more than 90 percent of the doses they were sent by the federal government.
Even states that have used a smaller share of the doses they were allocated are being held up.
California has administered just 74.2 percent of the nearly six million vaccine doses sent to it by the federal government.
West Virginia has already used more than 100% of the first doses allocated to it by extracting extra dose from vials of Pfizer’s vaccine
And the state will start letting residents who are under 65 and have disabilities or severe underlying health conditions get vaccinated on March 15.
But as of Monday, even people already eligible were having a hard time getting shots.
Two mass vaccination centers in San Francisco remained closed down on Monday,, due to a shortage of vaccines.
Sites at Moscone Center and City College of San Francisco won’t be able to reopen until they get their next shipment of vaccines from the federal government.
Illinois and New York each also announced last week that they’ll soon begin vaccinating residents with ‘comorbidities’ that put them at high risk for COVID-19 – including heart disease, diabetes, obesity or pregnancy.
New York opened vaccine eligibility to anyone over 16 in these categories beginning Monday, despite dwindling supplies, low vaccination rates in rural areas and even some parts of New York City, like the Bronx, as well as having about 9,500 nursing home residents left to vaccinate.
Governor Andrew Cuomo pointed out on Monday that there are now 10 million people eligible for vaccination in New York – but only 300,000 doses allocated to the state a week.
He squarely blamed the Trump administration.
Governor Andrew Cuomo squarely blamed the federal government for expanding eligibility recommendations but not increasing vaccine supply
‘The Trump administration had said they were increasing eligibility and they were going to increase the supply of vaccine, so states increased eligibility but the Trump administration did increase vaccine supply,’ Cuomo said during Monday press briefing.
‘Biden comes in, and basically what happens is “the cupboards are empty”‘ he added, referring to a Buffalo News editorial.
Cuomo credited the Biden administration for immediately securing more doses from manufacturers.
‘But there are more people eligible nationwide than there are doses availability,’ he said.
‘The federal government increased eligibility, but never increased supply.’
As a result, New York now has ’10 million people chasing 300,000 doses.’
Cuomo did not note that New York’s supply of Moderna doses did increase the past three weeks, and it is slated to receive 111,300 doses this week, compared to 103,000 the previous week, and 94,200 the week prior to that.
Still, at the current rate the state is receiving doses, it will take 33 weeks to get everyone currently eligible in New York vaccinated.
There will still be 9.46 million New York residents who need vaccines (including children under 16, for whom the FDA has not yet authorized shots).
Teachers in 28 states are now also eligible for vaccination (although some states have restrictions to that designation, like West Virginia’s which says only educators over 50 can get the shot).
Those states are:
- New York
- North Dakota
- West Virginia
- Washington, DC
The US government now has contracts for 600 million combined doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines – enough for nearly the entire US population to get both doses.
And vaccine makers are working flat out to make more doses, but bottlenecks have continued to crop up at the manufacturer and federal distribution levels.