Experts are raising concerns about the government’s plan to distribute the remaining stockpile of the two available COVID-19 vaccines so that more Americans over the age of 65 can get inoculated against the virus.
This could pose a problem, experts say, because inoculating a huge number of people with the first dose of the vaccine may prevent or delay them from getting the second booster shot needed for effective protection.
The approved Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses administered a few weeks apart.
According to Fast Company, many physicians have been holding back one dose of the vaccine for every dose they administer to ensure that a second dose will be available for patients who get the first one.
The government’s plan is to distribute its remaining stockpile of the two available COVID-19 vaccines so that more Americans over the age of 65 can get inoculated against the virus.
If the government releases all its currently available vaccines, and there is a glitch in future production, the availability of that second dose may be in jeopardy. Experts are worried that delaying that potentially critical booster could lead to vaccine resistance.
Some countries, such as the U.K, have adopted a single dose policy in order to vaccinate more people, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strongly recommended sticking to the dosing schedule validated by clinical trials of the vaccines. “Without appropriate data supporting such changes in vaccine administration, we run a significant risk of placing public health at risk, undermining the historic efforts to protect the population from COVID-19,” the FDA said in a statement.
Another problem with a flood of vaccines is safe and effective distribution. According to the Centers for Disease Control COVID Data Tracker, as of Thursday, 29,380,125 total doses have been distributed and only 10,278,364 people have received their first shot.
This logjam doesn’t bode well for releasing even more vaccines, says Peter Bach, who is the director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He questions whether Pfizer and Moderna can manufacture enough vaccines to provide a timely second dose if the current stockpile is depleted. Bach also wonders if healthcare providers will be overwhelmed with too many doses and not enough people who are approved to receive their vaccine which could cause the drugs to be wasted, according to The Washington Post.
“Not a single state is blowing through their stockpile of vaccines,” notes Bach, according to Fast Company. Dr. Leo Nissola, a research scientist at the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, suggests that the country needs a digital vaccination platform to coordinate federal, state, and local immunization efforts. He suggests creating a website that allows healthcare providers to follow specific guidelines and connects Americans with easy-to-access vaccines at local pharmacies. A coordinated effort could help hospitals distribute the correct number of vaccines and ensure that surplus drugs are given to institutions in need. Such a public platform would eradicate some of the problematic issues we are now facing, said Nissola, according to Fast Company.
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