Jan 12, 2021 - Health

Scoop: The Trump administration's plan to speed up vaccinations

Illustration of a hand in a glove holding a glowing syringe
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Trump administration is set to deliver new guidelines today that will get coronavirus vaccinations moving much faster.

Driving the news: New federal guidelines will recommend opening up the process to everyone older than 65, and will also aim to move doses out the door rather than holding some back.

Why it matters: The early phases of the vaccination effort were designed to put the highest-risk people at the front of the line, but the pace of inoculations has frustrated experts and everyday Americans alike.

  • The administration’s new guidelines aim to speed things up and ultimately move the U.S. closer to the widespread immunity that will put the pandemic behind us.

Details: The federal government is making three big changes, according to a senior administration official:

  • Recommending that states open the vaccination process to everyone older than 65 and to adults of all ages who have a pre-existing condition that puts them at greater risk for serious infection.
  • Expanding the venues where people can get vaccinated to include community health centers and more pharmacies.
  • Getting all the available doses out the door now. Both of the authorized vaccines require two shots; the government will no longer hold back doses for the second shot, but will instead try to get today’s doses into people’s arms now, trusting that supplies will increase rapidly enough to provide second shots.

These changes reflect a changing consensus about how best to distribute the vaccines — shifting away from a strict risk-based prioritization system, toward prioritizing getting as many shots into as many arms as possible, as quickly as possible.

  • Opening the doors to all seniors and high-risk patients mirrors steps some states have already taken, with public health experts’ encouragement, and President-elect Joe Biden has said his administration would not hold back doses for people’s second shots.

What we’re watching: There’s certainly no guarantee that this wider process will move smoothly, and there can be real costs to a sloppy rollout.

  • Some states and counties that already opened vaccinations to large numbers of people have struggled to get appointments made in any orderly fashion, sometimes leaving elderly, high-risk people to camp out for vaccines.

Yes, but: Increasing supplies should make every step of this more liberalized process — with more distribution points and wider eligibility — easier to manage.

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