With virus surging, Biden to speed release of COVID vaccines

WASHINGTON (AP) – With COVID-19 surging and vaccinations off to a slow start, United States (US) President-elect Joe Biden will rapidly release most available vaccine doses to protect more people, his office said on Friday, a reversal of Trump administration policies.

“The president-elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible,” spokesman TJ Ducklo said in a statement.

Biden “supports releasing available doses immediately, and believes the government should stop holding back vaccine supply so we can get more shots in Americans’ arms now”.

Biden’s plan is not about cutting two-dose vaccines in half, a strategy that top government scientists recommend against. Instead, it would accelerate shipment of first doses and use the levers of government power to provide required second doses in a timely manner.

The Trump administration has been holding back millions of doses of vaccine to guarantee that people can get a second shot, which provides maximum protection against COVID-19.

It’s seen as a prudent approach, since both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require a second shot after the first vaccination.

But a recent scientific analysis in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine estimated that a “flexible” approach roughly analogous to what Biden is talking about could avert an additional 23 per cent to 29 per cent of COVID-19 cases when compared to the “fixed” strategy the Trump administration is following. That’s assuming a steady supply of vaccine.

After a glow of hope when the first vaccines were approved last month, the nation’s inoculation campaign has gotten off to a slow start. Of 21.4 million doses distributed, about 5.9 million have been administered, or just under 28 per cent, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.