1m vaccinated but US admits rollout lagging behind

Source: AFP Published: 2020/12/24 18:53:39

More than 1 million Americans have received the first dose of their COVID-19 vaccines, a milestone in the biggest immunization drive in US history that came even as officials admitted the pace of the rollout was slipping behind schedule.

Medical staff are vaccinated one after another in Florida, the US on Wednesday. Photo: VCG

The news comes as the winter surge in cases rages across the US, where the virus has claimed more than 320,000 lives and is on course to be the third leading cause of death.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield said jurisdictions had logged the first million shots with his agency since the biggest immunization drive in US history kicked off on December 14.

"While we celebrate this historic milestone, we also acknowledge the challenging path ahead," said Redfield. 

"There is currently a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine in the US, but supply will increase in the weeks and months to come." Some 3 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were shipped last week, and the official goal for this week was 2 million more Pfizer doses, and 6 million from Moderna.

Moncef Slaoui, chief advisor of the government's Operation Warp Speed, said the objective of injecting 20 million people in December was "unlikely to be met," adding that a delay was beginning to emerge between doses being distributed to sites and the shots reaching arms.

Even so, he remained confident of being able to inoculate 100 million people in the first quarter of 2021, and another 100 million by the second quarter.

While the goals are ambitious, the Warp Speed program has already delivered on its objective of bringing vaccines from the lab bench to authorization before the end of 2020.

Many experts doubted this unprecedented feat was possible. 

It required running the various stages of testing in parallel and mass producing doses even before they were proven safe and effective, in case they succeeded. If the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines proceeds smoothly, it might be possible to achieve widespread population immunity in the US by summer 2021, top infectious disease official Anthony Fauci has said.

In an interview with WebMD posted Wednesday, Fauci suggested people could host weddings as early as June or July. He said he believed priority populations should receive their shots by March or early April.
Newspaper headline: Ambitious goals in doubt


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