Coronavirus Vaccinations

9m get jab as US scrambles with roll-out

WASHINGTON • Nearly nine million Americans had been given their first Covid-19 vaccination dose as at Monday morning, the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said, as states scrambled to step up inoculations.

The 8,987,322 people who have been given the first of two shots represent less than one-third of the total doses distributed to states by the government.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Monday sought permission from the Trump administration to directly purchase 100,000 doses of the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and partner BioNTech, which was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use. The FDA has also approved a vaccine made by Moderna.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city could run out of vaccine doses if the federal government does not send more. He has pledged to inoculate one million New Yorkers by the end of this month.

US President-elect Joe Biden is considering releasing to states more vaccine doses that the federal government had stockpiled, in an effort to ensure enough supply for a required second dose. Mr Biden takes office next Wednesday.

Second shots of both authorised vaccines are prescribed for three or four weeks after the first.

On Monday, Mr Biden received his second Covid-19 shot and said getting vaccines into people's arms would be a "number one priority" for his incoming administration.

He arrived at Christiana Hospital in Delaware in the early afternoon for his jab, and said: "My number one priority is getting vaccine in people's arms, like we just did today, as rapidly as we can."

He said he would be holding a virtual meeting with his coronavirus team later on, and announcing a new strategy tomorrow.

"Three to four thousand people a day dying is just beyond the pale... it's wrong, and we can do a lot to change it," he said.

Public health experts have said that no US state, including New York, has so far come close to using up its federal allotments of vaccines, a much slower than expected roll-out blamed in part on rigid rules limiting who can be inoculated.

The vaccinations have yet to make a dent in the health crisis, as the pandemic claimed on average about 3,200 lives nationwide each day over the last week. Covid-19 has killed more than 374,000 people in the US since March.

States in recent days have been increasing vaccination capacity with the ad hoc conversion of sports venues, convention halls and empty schools into vaccine centres.

Monday marked the last day of testing for the virus at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, which will be converted to a mass vaccination site by the end of the week, according to local leaders.

Los Angeles County, with a population of about 10 million people, has been an epicentre of the latest surge of the outbreak in the US, with cases and deaths soaring since early November and many hospitals overwhelmed.

Los Angeles County public health director Barbara Ferrer said on Monday that hospitalisations stood at over 8,000 last Friday, an increase of 884 per cent from early November.

"This deadly virus continues to spread at alarming rates... We fully expect to see another increase now that we are almost two weeks out from the New Year's holiday," she said.

Texas and Florida have been vaccinating people over the age of 65 since late last month, although reports from those states have indicated that demand has far outstripped appointments.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2021, with the headline '9m get jab as US scrambles with roll-out'. Print Edition | Subscribe