As part of efforts to expand access to Covid vaccines, the federal government will allow makers to release all their available doses instead of reserving booster shots, the U.S. health secretary said Tuesday.
The new guidelines, which are set to be announced by Operation Warp Speed as early as Tuesday, are also expected to include adults of any age with an underlying health condition that would put them at risk for complications or more severe illness. "Every vaccine dose that is sitting in a warehouse rather than going into an arm could mean one more life lost or one more hospital bed occupied".
"We could ramp up to do 6,000 to 8,000 doses per day that we could administer and with only a few changes we could ramp that up to 10,000", said Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais.
Public health officials say the pace is picking up somewhat - nearly 9 million people have received their first dose according to CDC data - but experts say the pace needs to increase and that state and local jurisdictions need more resources and support to resolve the bottleneck.
Azar also asked states to immediately begin vaccinating people 65 and older and younger people with health issues.
Releasing the second doses could disrupt vaccination schedules. Members of the Trump administration criticized that plan, with Azar saying it would jeopardize the "system that manages the flow, to maximize the number of first doses, but knowing there will be a second dose available, the New York Times reported". "We understand that everyone is anxious, but everyone who wants the vaccine will be given the opportunity to get vaccinated".