Jan 11, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden's plan to shake up vaccine distribution

Joe Biden

President-elect Joe Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden said on Friday that when he takes office, he'll release nearly all available coronavirus vaccines for distribution, instead of holding some back for second doses.

Why it matters: This could help more people get a first dose of the vaccine sooner, and a person familiar with the administration's planning told WSJ that the decision won't change the timing between doses. But there's no guarantee that the policy won't delay second doses.

  • "The only risk is the second dose could be delayed a few weeks," said former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, adding that the risk is small and he believes we should stick to the existing two-dose schedule.
  • "I don't know that you need to distribute everything, but you don't need to stockpile 55%."

The big picture: The argument for releasing all available doses immediately is simple: The virus is spreading — and killing — at an unprecedented rate across the U.S., and giving more people some protection could save lives in the immediate term.

  • While delayed second doses would be an unintentional result of the Biden policy, some countries, including the U.K., have decided to intentionally delay second doses to stretch supplies.

The other side: The available vaccines have only been tested with second doses administered either three or four weeks after the first, and it's unknown how well alternative strategies work.

  • Some experts also question whether sending out more doses will solve the current distribution problems.
  • Making dosage changes isn't justified "both because it’s not supported by the data that we do have, and because it doesn't address the actual problem currently facing the UK, the US, and Canada, which is the distribution of existing supplies," Georgetown's Angela Rasmussen and the University of Alberta's Ilan Schwartz write in The Guardian.
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