President Biden is also pushing for faster vaccinations – a case he is expected to bring on Friday when he travels to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to visit the manufacturing facility of Pfizer, one of two manufacturers of federally approved vaccines.
Federal officials estimate that up to six million vaccine doses are still unnecessarily stowed away. The release could increase the number of doses used by more than 10 percent – significantly accelerating the pace of the country’s vaccination program at a time when speed is vital to saving lives, containing disease and fighting off more contagious variants of the virus could. To date, 56 million shots have been administered and only 12 percent of Americans have received one or more doses.
The idea of cans lying in the refrigerator while millions of people are on waiting lists has deeply frustrated government officials. The problem has two roots.
First, when the federal vaccination program for long-term care facilities began late last year, the CDC relied on the number of beds, even though occupancy rates are the lowest in years. According to the American Health Care Association, a trading group, only 68 percent of beds in nursing homes and 78 percent of beds in assisted living are filled.
Then the CDC doubled that allocation to cover staff. While four-fifths of long-term care residents opted for a vaccination during the first month of the program, 63 percent of staff received no shots, the agency reported. Some of them have since been vaccinated, although it is not known exactly how many more.
Despite a lack of acceptance, the pharmacy chains that administer the program have continued to withdraw their allocations from the federal government. At one point in Virginia, Dr. Avula, if they had used less than one of the three cans they had on hand.
Clark Mercer, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s chief of staff, said of “good, corporate, risk-averse companies”, “If they can pull down, they will pull down.”