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WASHINGTON (AP) — Barely a month into a mass vaccination campaign to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration unexpectedly shifted gears Tuesday to speed the delivery of shots. A slow start had triggered widespread concern from states and public health officials.
Now, Health and Human Services Alex Azar has announced two major changes. First, the government will no longer hold back required second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, practically doubling supply. Second, states should immediately start vaccinating other groups lower down the priority scale, including people age 65 and older, and younger people with certain health problems.
The Trump administration, in a bid to speed up COVID-19 vaccination efforts, is asking states to widen distribution to include people ages 65 and older, and others who are at high risk for severe illness by releasing second doses that were previously being reserved for those who already had the first shot.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday that the administration is confident enough in vaccine production to ensure second doses are available when people need them. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, the only two to receive emergency use authorization in the U.S., require two doses of vaccine spaced several weeks apart.
The Trump administration will no longer hold back second doses of coronavirus shots and is asking states to start vaccinating older adults and people with high-risk medical conditions in an effort to accelerate vaccinations.
“We now believe that our manufacturing is predictable enough we can ensure second doses are available for people from ongoing production, so everything is now available to our states and our health care providers,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said on “Good Morning America.”
The Trump administration is expected to alter its coronavirus vaccine distribution guidance, recommending that people aged 65 and older are made eligible to be inoculated, The New York Times reported.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Defense are expected to announce the new guidance at a noon press conference, an anonymous official briefed on the announcement told the Times. The change to the recommendations is intended to quicken the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine, which has been far behind pace.