(CNN) — President-elect Joe Biden will aim to release all available doses of the coronavirus vaccine when he takes office, a break with the Trump administration’s strategy of containing half of U.S. vaccine production for ensure second doses are available.
Releasing all available vaccine doses could rapidly increase the availability of coronavirus vaccines by allowing more people to access a first dose. It could also be a risky strategy as both the Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses, given at specific intervals, and vaccine manufacturing has not increased as rapidly as many experts expected.
“The president-elect believes we must accelerate the distribution of the vaccine while ensuring that the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible. He supports the immediate release of available doses and believes that the government should stop withholding vaccine supplies so that we can have more injections in the arms of Americans now, “said TJ Ducklo, spokesman for Biden’s transition. “He will share additional details next week on how his administration will begin releasing available doses when he takes office on January 20.”
Biden’s transition comment comes after a group of governors wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Operation Warp Speed’s chief operating officer, Gen. Gustave Perna, pressuring the federal government to distribute “reserved doses” of the covid-19 vaccine to states that need them.
“Our states are ready to work around the clock to increase distribution, receive more injections and save more American lives. General Perna, as you have said before, ‘a vaccine on a shelf is not effective,’ ”the letter says. “We couldn’t agree more with you. That is why we are asking for your help now.
“When we work together, we can end this pandemic and return to a normal life sooner.”
The Trump administration has insisted that the doses need to be withheld to ensure that Americans who receive the first injection of the two-dose vaccine have access to the second. But the move has sparked debate about whether a better strategy would be to release all available doses as quickly as possible, particularly amid rising death and hospitalization rates. A study published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine also found that giving the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to more people rather than withholding the supply available to use as a second dose can reduce the number of new cases.
“Operation Warp Speed continues to ensure that second doses are available at vaccine administration sites, at appropriate intervals, as directed by jurisdiction leaders,” said an HHS spokesperson. “We would be delighted to know that jurisdictions have administered many more doses than they are currently reporting. We are encouraging jurisdictions to expand their priority groups as needed to ensure that no vaccine is on the shelf after it has been delivered to the designated jurisdiction locations.
The spokesperson also noted that the US Food and Drug Administration recently reiterated the importance of requiring two doses for the Pfizer and Modern vaccines.
The Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are 95% effective after two full doses.
Earlier this week, two senior FDA officials said anyone receiving those vaccines needs both doses, dismissing the idea of extending the supply by allowing just one dose or cutting the doses in half.
They also ruled out other ideas to extend vaccine supply, saying that people who speculate on the possibility of getting by on just one dose or cutting it in half are misinterpreting the data.
“We have been following discussions and news reports on how to reduce the number of doses, extend the time between doses, change the dose (half dose) or mix and match vaccines to immunize more people against covid-19,” they said FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn and Dr. Peter Marks, who heads the FDA’s vaccine division, in a statement.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism