US President-elect Joe Biden, facing the rise in coronavirus cases and the emergence of a new variant that could dramatically worsen the country’s public health crisis, plans a vaccination blitz that calls for a broad broadening access while emphasizing equality in distribution – including inmates in prison.
But his plan comes up against a stark reality: With just two vaccines licensed by the federal government, supplies will be scarce over the next few months, frustrating some state and municipal health officials who have been waiting for a stockpile of Federal vaccines announced about it. the week.
Donald Trump administration officials clarified on Friday (15) that the existing stock would only last until the second dose is applied to people already vaccinated, and therefore would be sufficient to serve new groups.
“The distribution of the vaccine in the United States has been a sad failure so far,” Biden said. “The truth is, things will get worse before they get better. And the political changes we’re going to make will take time to show up in Covid statistics.”
“Today we have doses of vaccine in unused refrigerators, while people who want the vaccine don’t get it,” Biden’s campaign said in handouts distributed to reporters before the president-elect took over. the speech.
Biden’s team said he would invoke the Defense Production Act, if necessary, to increase the vaccine supply. But the team also tried to moderate expectations. Biden said his plan “will not mean that all members of these groups will be vaccinated immediately because the stock is not as it should be.” But, he added, it will mean that, as the doses become available, “we will reach more people who need them.”
Biden’s transition team has vowed to step up vaccination in pharmacies and build mobile clinics to bring the vaccine to remote and underserved rural communities. Like the Trump administration, Biden will call on states to expand vaccine eligibility groups to people 65 and older.
The government will also offer “programs for high-risk environments, including homeless shelters, prisons and institutions that accommodate people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” the material explains.
In some ways, Biden’s proposals echo those of the Trump administration, which also called earlier this week for extending vaccine eligibility to groups aged 65 and over, with greater use. pharmacies and vaccinations in health centers qualified by the federal government. The Trump administration has also frequently used the Defense Production Act to prioritize vaccine makers over suppliers of raw materials and other products.
Biden unveiled the vaccine distribution plan just a day after proposing a $ 1.9 trillion (R $ 9.9 trillion) spending package to tackle Covid-19 and the economic crisis, including 20 billion dollars (105 billion reais) for a “national immunization program”.
The president-elect has repeatedly stated that he plans to put “100 million doses of the Covid vaccine in the arms of the American population” by the hundredth day of his term.
Hurry up. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sounded the alarm on Friday over a rapidly spreading and much more contagious variant of the coronavirus, which is expected to become the main source of infection in the United States by March, potentially feeding yet another devastating spike in cases and deaths. Some public health experts are concerned.
“I think in six to eight weeks we will see excellent transmission in this country, as we are seeing in England,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and a member of the committee. Coronavirus Advisory Team. by Biden. “If we can set up immunization clinics faster and more efficiently, how many lives can we save?”
Biden wants the federal government to not only develop mass vaccination sites, but also reimburse states for using National Guard soldiers to administer vaccines.
The plan’s focus on ensuring equitable distribution includes mobile vaccination clinics, as well as using data to direct vaccination in areas and communities disproportionately hard hit by the virus.
The material also says officials will focus on places where people live in small spaces, such as prisons – which plans in some states have not prioritized, although some of the country’s largest infection centers. be the prisons.
The vaccination plan is part of Biden’s larger effort to use the current crisis to rebuild the country’s weakened public health structure, a long-standing Democratic goal on Capitol Hill.
To that end, Biden pledged to increase federal funds for community health centers and called for a new “public health jobs program” that would pay 100,000 area workers to participate in vaccinations and follow-up. contacts. This body of skilled workers was supposed to be in place for the next pandemic.
“The details have yet to be worked out, but this is a really critical recognition that state and municipal health agencies need to be strengthened as they haven’t been in decades,” said Osterholm.
About 390,000 people in the United States have died from the virus during the pandemic, and the country has recorded more than 23 million infections, according to a New York Times database. Over the past week, there have been an average of more than 240,000 cases per day, a 27% increase from the average for the previous two weeks. More than 4,400 deaths were announced Tuesday (12), a record.
As of Friday, according to the CDC, about 10.6 million people had received at least one dose of one of the Covid-19 vaccines, and about 1.6 million had received the second dose. This is a far cry from the goal that the federal authorities have set for themselves, to give the first dose to at least 20 million people by the end of 2020.
Translation by Luiz Roberto M. Gonçalves