A group of governors penned a letter to Health and Human Services pressing the government to distribute reserved doses.
The Trump administrations original strategy was to hold back half of the available vaccine production in order to ensure that there were second doses available. Now, in breaking news, President-elect Joe Biden has announced that he plans to release every dose of the vaccine accessible when he takes office.
While increasing the availability of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines would quickly allow more people access to a first dose, it could also present a danger of not having enough on hand for peoples planned second dose. The vaccines require two rounds which are given at specific intervals in order to ensure the maximum amount of efficacy, and experts are concerned that manufacturing is not currently up to the task of meeting the increased demand.
"These are all reasonable questions to consider and evaluate in clinical trials. However, 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,” Stephen Hahn, the FDA commissioner and Peter Marks, head of the FDA’s vaccine division said. “Without appropriate data supporting such changes in vaccine administration, we run a significant risk of placing public health at risk, undermining the historic vaccination efforts to protect the population from COVID-19."
Trump and his administration have maintained that the holding back of doses is necessary to ensure that those who receive their first course of the vaccine will have access to their second. However, debate has surrounded this issue, and many have asked if releasing all the available doses as quickly as possible is a better strategy. A recent study that was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found that giving more of the population a first dose could potentially reduce the number of new cases.
The study demonstrated that if the amount of vaccine doses that are being withheld was reduced by 10% for three weeks and 6 million doses were administered per week, that 29% of new cases could be avoided over 8 weeks.
Currently, the United States government is withholding 50% of the available supply of vaccines. The reasoning behind this strategy is to ensure that they will be able to distribute the second dose to the states and jurisdictions in a few weeks who will need them.
"The President-elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible. He supports releasing available doses immediately, and believes the government should stop holding back vaccine supply so we can get more shots in Americans' arms now," TJ Ducklo, a spokesman for Biden's transition said. "He will share additional details next week on how his Administration will begin releasing available doses when he assumes office on January 20th."