Could sluggish rollout delay when you receive COVID-19 vaccine?

Coronavirus

A health worker carries doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in a box at the Rene-Muret hospital in Servan near Paris, Sunday Dec. 27, 2020. (Thomas Samson/Pool Photo via AP)

(NEXSTAR) – Despite national reports of a slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) says there are no plans to alter the current tiered vaccination schedule.

The FDA said in a statement Monday that “at this time, suggesting changes to the FDA-authorized dosing or schedules of these vaccines is premature and not rooted solidly in the available evidence.”

“We know that some of these discussions about changing the dosing schedule or dose are based on a belief that changing the dose or dosing schedule can help get more vaccine to the public faster,” the statement continues. “However, making such changes that are not supported by adequate scientific evidence may ultimately be counterproductive to public health.”

The COVID vaccine is being administered in phases:

  • 1a: Health care personnel and longterm care facility residents
  • 1b: Frontline essential workers and people age 75 and over
  • 1c: People ages 65 through 74 and those between the ages of 16 and 64 with underlying medical conditions, as well as other essential workers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to discuss a vaccine schedule beyond phase one. In October, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a framework that addresses future phases, but it has yet to be approved.

That framework sees teachers, school staff, food supply workers and incarcerated individuals in phase two, while phase three includes young adults, children and workers in industries “important to the functioning of society,” including hotels, restaurants, universities and factories. Phase four would include everyone who had yet to receive the vaccine.

It’s not clear when these potential phases would be rolled out, but one physician told Prevention that “it is unlikely that the general public will have access to the vaccine until late spring to summer of 2021.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Tuesday that he was optimistic that “the glitches” in vaccine distribution “have been worked out.”

“Once you get rolling and get some momentum, I think we can achieve one million a day or even more,” Fauci said. He called President-elect Joe Biden’s goal of 100 million vaccinations in 100 days “a very realistic, important, achievable goal.”

According to the CDC, roughly 4.8 million doses of more than 17 million delivered had been used by Tuesday morning — likely an undercount due to delays in reporting but still far fewer than experts had hoped.

Still, Fauci pointed to a celebrated moment in history to back up his projection of ramped-up inoculations: In 1947, New York City vaccinated more than 6 million people against a smallpox outbreak in less than a month — and “one of them was me as a 6-year-old boy who got vaccinated.” 

If a single city could do such mass vaccinations in weeks, “this is not something that is far-fetched” for an entire country, he said. “You can use school auditoriums, you can use stadiums. You can really ramp up the contribution of pharmacies.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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