Covid-19 Live Updates: Across U.S., States Confront Challenge of Vaccinating Expanded Pool of People

Author : niladry
Publish Date : 2021-01-13


Covid-19 Live Updates: Across U.S., States Confront Challenge of Vaccinating Expanded Pool of People

More than 50 million people in the United States who are 65 or older — as well as younger people with underlying conditions — are now cleared to receive a coronavirus vaccine, after the federal government abruptly reversed course on its recommendations on priority groups.

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But that’s much easier said than done, and some experts are questioning whether making so many more people eligible will make the process of signing up and receiving a vaccine even more complicated.

“This is creating a lot of confusion and chaos and anxiety days before a new administration comes in,” Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, told NPR on Wednesday morning.

The challenges are many. States have struggled to set up phone and online sign-up systems, and many of the oldest Americans, who are most at risk of death from a coronavirus infection, have struggled to use them, encountering complicated registration sites, error messages and other roadblocks. Appointments have been booked as soon as they open up. Some in the first priority groups have succeeded in booking their shots — but weeks out. Servers have crashed amid skyrocketing demand. Some areas have multiple sign-up systems, increasing confusion.

In Georgia, a man spoke to Atlanta’s Channel 2 Action News about how he had called the Troup County Covid hotline more than 100 times to try and make an appointment for his mother.

“No one’s ever picking up,” Eric Moore said. “I promise you, I called 134 times.”

There are also questions about how to prioritize people at increased risk of severe illness from Covid-19, an expansive category that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates includes more than 100 million adults with conditions such as obesity, which affects at least 40 percent of adults, diabetes, cancer, and chronic lung and heart disease.

The federal government’s revised guidance, announced by Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, at a news conference on Tuesday, is not binding. As with testing and tracing earlier in the pandemic, each state has been left to devise its own plan based on local needs, at times creating confusion and scattershot approaches.

In New York, there was concern about the crush of demand outpacing availability. The governor said Tuesday the state would accept the new federal guidance to prioritize those 65 and older after eligibility had just been expanded statewide to include residents 75 and older and more essential workers.

On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City acknowledged that people may be frustrated by trying to make appointments online or on the phone.

As eligibility continued to expand, he said the city would keep administering doses over the next few weeks “and then we’re going to run out of the vaccine.” The city usually receives about 100,000 doses per week, the city’s health commissioner said Tuesday at a City Council hearing to address problems with the rollout. But officials don’t find out until a couple of days beforehand.

“Even with normal supplies that we expect to have delivered next week, we will run out of vaccine at some point next week unless we get a major new resupply,” the mayor said Wednesday.

Other states were reassessing their vaccination plans based on the new federal guidance, though some may not change course. In Arkansas, Dr. Jose Romero, the health secretary, said that Gov. Asa Hutchinson would stick to his plan of opening vaccinations to people 70 and older and some essential workers starting Monday.

The federal government has delivered about 29.4 million doses to states, territories and federal agencies as of Wednesday, and about 10.3 million doses had been administered. The Trump administration originally said that 20 million Americans would be vaccinated by Jan. 1.

West Virginia, South Dakota and North Dakota had administered the most first doses per capita among states, federal data shows. California, where the virus is raging, was among the states that had administered the fewest of its doses — just 26 percent of those the state had already received. The state is moving to loosen eligibility and open mass vaccination centers, including one at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Mr. Azar said on Tuesday that the country was “on track” to reach the rate of one million vaccinations a day in about a week, and stressed that data collection about each states’ progress has been slow and faulty. He also faulted states that had been “overly prescriptive and trying to micromanage every single dose of vaccine” and said the government would send more doses to states based on their success in distributing ones they had already received.

The allocation will also be based on the size of a state’s population of people 65 and older, not on its general adult population, he said. It was unclear, however, whether that would hold past Jan. 20, when President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes office.

Mr. Biden is expected to announce details of his own vaccination plan — which will include federally supported mass vaccination clinics — on Thursday. Mr. Biden has set a goal of 100 million shots administered in his first 100 days.

As of Wednesday, the country had recorded more than 23 million cases and more than 380,000 deaths, according to a Times database. New cases have increased steadily since the fall, and a record number of deaths were reported on Tuesday: more than 4,400.

More than 50 million people in the United States who are 65 or older — as well as younger people with underlying conditions — are now cleared to receive a coronavirus vaccine, after the federal government abruptly reversed course on its recommendations on priority groups.

But that’s much easier said than done, and some experts are questioning whether making so many more people eligible will make the process of signing up and receiving a vaccine even more complicated.

“This is creating a lot of confusion and chaos and anxiety days before a new administration comes in,” Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, told NPR on Wednesday morning.

The challenges are many. States have struggled to set up phone and online sign-up systems, and many of the oldest Americans, who are most at risk of death from a coronavirus infection, have struggled to use them, encountering complicated registration sites, error messages and other roadblocks. Appointments have been booked as soon as they open up. Some in the first priority groups have succeeded in booking their shots — but weeks out. Servers have crashed amid skyrocketing demand. Some areas have multiple sign-up systems, increasing confusion.

In Georgia, a man spoke to Atlanta’s Channel 2 Action News about how he had called the Troup County Covid hotline more than 100 times to try and make an appointment for his mother.

“No one’s ever picking up,” Eric Moore said. “I promise you, I called 134 times.”

There are also questions about how to prioritize people at increased risk of severe illness from Covid-19, an expansive category that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates includes more than 100 million adults with conditions such as obesity, which affects at least 40 percent of adults, diabetes, cancer, and chronic lung and heart disease.

The federal government’s revised guidance, announced by Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, at a news conference on Tuesday, is not binding. As with testing and tracing earlier in the pandemic, each state has been left to devise its own plan based on local needs, at times creating confusion and scattershot approaches.

In New York, there was concern about the crush of demand outpacing availability. The governor said Tuesday the state would accept the new federal guidance to prioritize those 65 and older after eligibility had just been expanded statewide to include residents 75 and older and more essential workers.

On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City acknowledged that people may be frustrated by trying to make appointments online or on the phone.

As eligibility continued to expand, he said the city would keep administering doses over the next few weeks “and then we’re going to run out of the vaccine.” The city usually receives about 100,000 doses per week, the city’s health commissioner said Tuesday at a City Council hearing to address problems with the rollout. But officials don’t find out until a couple of days beforehand.

“Even with normal supplies that we expect to have delivered next week, we will run out of vaccine at some point next week unless we get a major new resupply,” the mayor said Wednesday.

Other states were reassessing their vaccination plans based on the new federal guidance, though some may not change course. In Arkansas, Dr. Jose Romero, the health secretary, said that Gov. Asa Hutchinson would stick to his plan of opening vaccinations to people 70 and older and some essential workers starting Monday.

The federal government has delivered about 29.4 million doses to states, territories and federal agencies as of Wednesday, and about 10.3 million doses had been administered. The Trump administration originally said that 20 million Americans would be vaccinated by Jan. 1.

West Virginia, South Dakota and North Dakota had administered the most first doses per capita among states, federal data shows. California, where the virus is raging, was among the states that had administered the fewest of its doses — just 26 percent of those the state had already received. The state is moving to loosen eligibility and open mass vaccination centers, including one at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Mr. Azar said on Tuesday that the country was “on track” to reach the rate of one million vaccinations a day in about a week, and stressed that data collection about each states’ progress has been slow and faulty. He also faulted states that had been “overly prescriptive and trying to micromanage every single dose of vaccine” and said the government would send more doses to states based on their success in distributing ones they had already received.

The allocation will also be based on the size of a state’s population of people 65 and older, not on its general adult population, he said. It was unclear, however, whether that would hold past Jan. 20, when President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes office.

Mr. Biden is expected to announce details of his own vaccination plan — which will include federally supported mass vaccination clinics — on Thursday. Mr. Biden has set a goal of 100 million shots administered in his first 100 days.

As of Wednesday, the country had recorded more than 23 million cases and more than 380,000 deaths, according to a Times database. New cases have increased steadily since the fall, and a record number of deaths were reported on Tuesday: more than 4,400.



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