The FDA Chief Is Urging States to Start Vaccinating These People

He wants states to "strongly" consider adjusting the order of vaccinations.

It's no secret the COVID vaccine rollout is going slower than officials had anticipated. With the U.S. seeing fewer shots in arms than it had hoped for by now, some experts are suggesting switching up the system to get better results. Stephen Hahn, MD, the commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is urging the country to "strongly" consider allowing states to vaccinate lower-priority groups. To see why the FDA commissioner thinks this strategy will help move the vaccine process along, read on, and for more vaccine news, discover The Only 2 People Who Shouldn't Get the COVID Vaccine, FDA Official Says.

Hahn wants to start vaccinating lower-priority groups.

woman in surgical mask getting covid vaccine from medical professional in blue scrubs and surgical mask

Once the first COVID vaccine was approved in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) drew up guidelines for the suggested order of vaccinations. The CDC's guidelines were simply a recommendation, and states are free to distribute the vaccine as they see fit. Aside from minor alterations to the CDC's suggested order, states have mostly adhered to these recommendations.

Hahn is now urging states to reconsider this process. NBC reports that during a gathering of the Alliance for Health Policy, Hahn said, "I would strongly encourage that we move forward with giving states the opportunity to be more expansive in who they can give the vaccine to." Allowing lower-priority people to get vaccinated would offer some amount of protection to more Americans while ensuring the current doses don't go to waste.

"We've heard in the press that some folks have said, 'OK, I'm waiting to get all of my health-care workers vaccinated. We have about 35 percent uptake of the vaccine.' I think it reasonable to expand that" to other groups, Hahn explained. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Some states have already decided to be more expansive with vaccinations.

A senior woman wearing a face mask receives a COVID-19 vaccine from a female healthcare worker.

Most states are in the CDC's recommended first phase of vaccinations, which prioritizes essential workers and people in long-term care facilities. States like Texas and Florida decided to incorporate inoculating seniors and essential workers into their first phase, before Hahn's comments.

And they're not alone. On Jan. 8, New York governor Andrew Cuomo made the announcement that the state would move onto its next phase of vaccinations in the coming week. This phase will seek to vaccinate people aged 75 years or older, first responders, education workers, public safety workers, and public transit workers. And for more on reactions to the vaccine, Dr. Fauci Just Gave This Warning About COVID Vaccine Side Effects.

The U.S. is currently stockpiling the vaccine.

Vials of COVID-19 vaccine sitting in a row.

The U.S. government has been clear that they're hoarding a substantial portion of the vaccine to ensure there's enough for the first priority group's second doses. If the U.S. decided to release all of the available vaccines, it could allow for more Americans to get vaccinated in a shorter amount of time, but it could put the timing of the second doses at risk.

Additionally, NBC points out that depleting the current supply would put intense pressure on Pfizer and Moderna to increase production to make sure people can get their second dose in time. And for more coronavirus news, If This Part of Your Body Hurts, You Could Have COVID.

But President-elect Joe Biden plans to release the vaccines.

Side view of doctor preparing vaccine syringe to inject on young patient.
ArtistGNDphotography / iStock

Hahn's suggestion to begin vaccinating people beyond the first priority group came right as President-elect Joe Biden's team announced plans to release the available vaccines. According to the Associated Press, Biden transition team spokesperson T.J. Ducklo said Biden will alter the vaccine rollout and "supports releasing available doses immediately" rather than holding them back in anticipation of the second doses. And for more on the current state of the pandemic, The CDC Just Issued This Grim Warning About the COVID Surge.

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