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Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.

What they're saying: “What the CDC is saying, sometimes, the situation is stressed where it’s very difficult to be exactly on time,” Biden's chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci told CNN. “So we’re saying, you can probably do it six weeks later, namely, two additional weeks."

  • "Quite frankly, immunologically, I don’t think that’s going to make a big difference," Fauci added.
  • The CDC's “intention is not to suggest people do anything different, but provide clinicians with flexibility for exceptional circumstances," agency spokesperson Kristen Nordlund told the New York Times.

Details: The CDC recommends getting the second dose three weeks after the first for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and suggests a four-week window between the two doses of Moderna's vaccine.

  • The two doses should be administered as close to that recommended schedule as possible, the CDC says.
  • Of note: There is “limited data on efficacy” of the vaccines beyond that interval, according to the new guidance, but if the second dose is administered later “there is no need to restart the series.”
  • The updated guidance also says "every effort should be made to determine which vaccine product was received as the first dose, in order to ensure completion of the vaccine series with the same product."
  • "In exceptional situations in which the first-dose vaccine product cannot be determined or is no longer available," any available mRNA vaccine can be used for the second dose, the guidance adds.

The big picture: The U.S. failed to meet its goal of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of December.

  • In his first days in office, Biden promised an aggressive campaign to ramp up vaccine production, aiming to deliver 100 million vaccinations in 100 days.
  • The new president's "wartime" coronavirus strategy includes invoking the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine supply.
  • Fauci has said the U.S. could achieve herd immunity by fall if Biden's vaccine rollout goes as planned.

Go deeper: The most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information

Go deeper

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Science helps New Zealand avoid another coronavirus lockdown

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) visits a lab at Auckland University in December. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand has avoided locking down for a second time over COVID-19 community cases because of a swift, science-led response.

Why it matters: The Health Ministry said in an email to Axios Friday there's "no evidence of community transmission" despite three people testing positive after leaving managed hotel isolation. That means Kiwis can continue to visit bars, restaurants and events as much of the world remains on lockdown.

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Germany to impose travel restrictions to curb spread of coronavirus variants

Border police officers check passports and COVID-19 tests at Frankfurt Airport. Photo: Thomas Lohnes via Getty Images

Germany announced Friday that it was imposing new travel restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of more contagious coronavirus variants.

Details: All non-German residents traveling from countries deemed "areas of variant concern," including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Portugal, Ireland, Brazil, Lesotho and Eswatini, will be banned from entering the country, even if they test negative for the coronavirus.

1 min ago - World

Pope Francis set to make first papal visit to Iraq amid possible turmoil

Data: Vatican News; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.

The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.