The current coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine shortage could end very soon. President Biden has announced that there will be enough vaccine doses available to vaccinate every American adult by the end of May.
That’s two months earlier than previous estimates, and it’s being made possible by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) conditional approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The company already has 3 million doses on the shelf, and the White House announced Tuesday that rival drugmaker Merck will step in to aid production.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Biden said at a White House briefing. “And today’s announcements are a huge step in our effort to beat this pandemic.”
With more vaccines entering the pipeline, it should speed up the production and distribution process. Many seniors have expressed frustration with booking vaccination appointments because of the scarcity of the vaccine and the need to schedule two shots for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The Johnson & Johnson drug requires just one shot.
Expanding the pool to include teachers
Currently, frontline workers and adults aged 65 and older are eligible to receive vaccinations, but Biden is urging states to prepare to expand the eligibility pool as more vaccine doses become available.
He said the expanded pool should include teachers, school staff, and child care workers so children can return to the classroom as soon as possible. Biden suggested that invoking the federal pharmacy program could accomplish that goal by prioritizing teachers and having all of them vaccinated with at least one dose by the end of March.
Despite scarcity, the vaccination rollout has gone more smoothly in recent weeks. The Wall Street Journal’s analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the seven-day average of vaccinations has risen to 1.8 million a day. At the beginning of the week, nearly 51 million Americans had received at least one shot.
Countering vaccine hesitancy
While officials are encouraged by the increases in available vaccines, they remain concerned that not everyone is willing to roll up their sleeve. The Ad Council, working with major corporations, is currently running public education campaigns to counter “vaccine hesitancy” among Americans who are mistrustful of the process.
A January survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly 30 percent of health care workers expressed hesitancy about getting a COVID-19 shot. The percentage was higher for staff in long-term care facilities, where six in 10 health care workers did not get a shot during the first month of vaccine distribution, according to the CDC.