New York City is on track to run out of Covid-19 vaccine doses by Friday, forcing the country’s largest city to scale back its mass vaccination ambitions, as cities and states nationwide warn soaring demand for a safe, effective Covid-19 vaccine will soon catch up with limited supply and possibly lead to shortages and delays.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday his city has ramped up the pace of vaccinations after a slow start last month, but vaccine supplies have dwindled and by Friday the city will have “literally nothing left to give,” forcing clinics to cancel vaccination appointments until next Tuesday, when another shipment of doses arrives.
Other parts of the country are also warning of looming supply issues as they aim to widen eligibility: California, Massachusetts and Ohio are preparing to start vaccinations for elderly and other vulnerable people, but state officials say they aren’t receiving doses quickly enough to cover those groups.
The governors of Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin — all Democrats — warned on Friday they may need to shutter plans for public mass-vaccination clinics if President Donald Trump’s administration doesn’t distribute vaccines to states faster, writing an open letter to outgoing Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.
“This is crazy. This is not the way it should be,” de Blasio said at a press conference Tuesday. “We have the ability to vaccinate a huge number of people. We need the vaccine to go with it.”
Azar promised early last week to release all vaccine doses the federal government had stockpiled for use as second shots, theoretically allowing more doses to reach patients immediately. However, the Washington Post later discovered the government had already given away all of its reserve doses. Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority, called this revelation “extremely disturbing” in a letter to Azar, warning the state might not be able to vaccinate seniors as quickly as he’d thought. HHS did not respond to a request for comment.
12.3 million. That’s the number of Americans who had received at least one dose of Pfizer or Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine as of Friday morning, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. The CDC claims 31.2 million doses have been distributed so far, meaning many available doses remain unused.
Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines began reaching Americans’ arms in mid-December, with healthcare workers and nursing home residents earning first priority. Many experts are frustrated by the sluggish pace of immunizations so far, a problem that partly stems from a glitchy distribution process and limited capacity at overworked vaccination sites. In a few cases, health workers have even tossed out vaccine doses because they couldn’t find anybody eligible to take the shots before they expired. Now, as states ramp up their capacity and aim to broaden eligibility, observers are pointing to a new problem: demand will soon exceed supply.
What To Watch For
Officials are eying a few ways to manage this possible supply crunch. President-elect Joe Biden plans to press vaccine makers to speed up the pace of manufacturing. And regulators hope drugmakers AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson will release viable vaccine candidates in the coming weeks, which would bolster supply. Plus, former Food and Drug Administration head Dr. Scott Gottleib believes demand will eventually begin to flatten because millions of Americans are unwilling to get the vaccine.