It’s been a mixed bag in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic through the holidays and into the first few weeks of 2021. Vaccines are being distributed and administered, however nowhere near the 20 million doses the U.S. government expected would be dispensed by early January.
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in mid-December. Yet out of the 21.4 million vaccine does distributed to individual states, only 5.9 million doses have actually been administered as of Jan. 8. The reasons range from local logistics, lack of funding, and staffing struggles during the holidays. It might also stem from the fact that the timetable was largely aspirational. Administering doses to a line of people while still maintaining safe social distancing is also a logistical challenge for many healthcare departments.
Experts expect the pace to significantly quicken in January now that the holidays are over and providers have had time to optimize their routines.
Another area of concern, health officials are troubled about the record COVID-10 cases and deaths in early January. There were more coronavirus cases and deaths reported the week of Jan. 8 in the U.S. than in any other single week during the entire pandemic. A record 4,080 COVID-19 deaths were reported on a single day (Jan. 7), the first time a single U.S. daily toll eclipsed 4,000 deaths.
As for U.S. vaccine policy, changes may soon be underway in after President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. Biden has said that rather than holding back half the U.S. supply of vaccines for the second of two doses, he would release nearly every available dose to distribution so that more people can get a first dose sooner. This would entail some risk as both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses roughly a month apart. Biden’s transition team says that it would ramp up production of the vaccines so that vaccinated people would still be able to get a second dose within that timeframe.
In addition to the government getting more doses out faster, President Donald Trump signed into law a $900 billion relief bill on Dec. 27 that includes more than $8 million to aid vaccine distribution. This is over and above the $340 million that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent out to states in September and December for distribution.
Finally, a new U.K. variant of COVID-19 has begun showing up in the U.S. The CDC has confirmed the presence of at least 52 cases of the coronavirus variant. The U.K. variant appears to spread more easily than the normal strain but there isn’t yet any evidence that it’s deadlier, causes more severe disease, or is more resistant to vaccines. The CDC plans to double the amount of its genetic sequencing of virus samples to better detect the variant and other similar mutations of the coronavirus.
To better assist healthcare organizations in the promoting their COVID-19 vaccination information and vaccine availability through social media, SR Health has created some downloadable examples of posts to adapt and share with your community. Download the sample posts here.
You can also sign up here for a COVID-19 vaccine resources series that includes tips, tools, and stories.