US COVID-19 vaccine allotment to stay the course, despite upticks

Puddin Tain / Flickr cc

Today during a White House COVID-19 pandemic response briefing, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, Jeff Zients, said, “Now is not the time to change course on vaccine allocation,” in the face of some states reporting dramatic spikes in virus activity.

"There are tens of millions of people across the country in each and every state and county who have not yet been vaccinated, and the fair and equitable way to distribute the vaccine is based on the adult population by state, tribe, and territory," Zients said. "That’s how it's been done, and we will continue to do so. The virus is unpredictable. We don't know where the next increase in cases could occur."

Despite distributing 3 million vaccine doses each day, the United States is seeing another rise in daily COVID-19 cases, and states such as Michigan and Minnesota are facing dramatic upswings in case counts.

Yesterday, the United States reported 79,878 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and 1,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. In total, the country has confirmed 31,064,031 cases, including 560,855 deaths.

Michigan embarks on 2-week pause

Today, Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, called for a 2-week halt on in-person high school classes, indoor restaurants, and all youth sports, according to the Associated Press. 

"We're going to have some tough weeks ahead. So I’m asking everyone — please, take this seriously," Whitmer said during a press conference. In the last 2 weeks, cases in Michigan have soared. Yesterday, the state recorded more than 5,200 new cases Thursday, the most in over 3 months. 

Several hospital leaders in Michigan said yesterday they had no choice but to postpone some surgical procedures so they have the capacity to handle the significant spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to the Detroit Free Press.

But the White House is not sending more vaccine to supply to the state, despite Whitmer asking President Joe Biden to do so last night in a telephone call. Instead, Biden will offer the state more resources to support vaccinations, testing, and therapeutics.

During today's press conference, Zients emphasized that the White House distributes all vaccine supply on hand equitably and quickly to states based on population. 

Southern states face surplus of vaccines 

Mississippi is one of several southern and heavily Republican states that have low rates of COVID-19 vaccination and a growing surplus of unused doses, the New York Times reports. Although access is a problem in some parts of the state, public health experts worry the surplus indicates a significant number of residents with vaccine hesitancy. 

On Thursday, Mississippi had more than 73,000 slots open for vaccines, and Oklahoma announced it may begin opening up vaccine eligibility to out-of-state residents. 

Four in 10 rural residents (39%) say they have gotten at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, which is larger than the share of adults in suburban and urban areas who say the same (31% each), according to the latest Kaiser Family Foundation survey. But fewer rural residents say they are planning to get vaccinated than suburban or urban residents.

In total, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID Data Tracker shows 229,398,685 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered in the United States and 174,879,716 doses have been administered, with 66,203,123 Americans fully vaccinated.

Pfizer looks for EUA for teens; AstraZeneca stockpile grows

In other vaccine news, Pfizer announced today it is applying to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use authorization (EUA) for its two-dose mRNA vaccine for use in 12- to 16-year-olds. Currently, the vaccine is approved for use in those 16 and up.

"These requests are based on data from the pivotal Phase 3 trial in adolescents 12 to 15 years of age with or without prior evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection, which demonstrated 100 percent efficacy and robust antibody response after vaccination with the COVID-19 Vaccine," the company said in a statement. 

AstraZeneca, the two-dose vaccine commonly used in Europe, has not yet been approved for EUA, but the national stockpile has grown to 20 million doses, according to Bloomberg. Some are suggesting that if the FDA grants the vaccine an EUA, the Biden administration should donate the doses to other countries.

Finally, two federally run mass vaccination sites closed temporarily yesterday in Colorado and North Carolina after a handful of patients had adverse reactions to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, CBS News reports. CDC and state health officials said they found no safety issues.

This week's top reads