A member of a federal vaccine advisory panel said Thursday that the United States should be holding mass COVID-19 vaccination events to get more people vaccinated, amid concerns vaccinations aren’t happening quickly enough.
While billions of dollars from the government helped produce vaccines in record time, the vaccination part “is equally hard and is equally going to require this Manhattan Project-like response,” Dr. Paul Offit said.
“We need to do essentially the kind of things we’re doing in our hospital. In our hospital, we’ve vaccinated 12 people every 30 minutes. And so we will plow through tens of thousands of people by having a very efficient system,” he added.
“And that’s what has to happen across this country where you have mass vaccination campaigns for all these different groups. Initially, healthcare workers, but then, people who are teachers and people who are working in utilities or mass transit and just have these mass vaccination. We need to put that in place.”
Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is a member of the Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. He was speaking on CNN’s “New Day.”
Officials with President Donald Trump’s administration for weeks said they projected that 20 million people would be vaccinated by the end of the year, but as of Wednesday morning, just 2.7 million people have received the shots.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden pointed to the shortfall this week as he vowed to speed up vaccinations if he wins the White House and is sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021.
“The Biden Harris administration will spare no effort to make sure people get vaccinated,” with the goal of ensuring 100 million shots are administered across 100 days starting on inauguration day, he said.
Biden promised to find ways to “boost the pace of vaccinations” to well over 1 million shots a day.
Dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, on “CBS This Morning” said Biden’s projected injections are “theoretically achievable.”
“I wish, I wish he had said, ‘we’re going to do the best we can.’ I don’t like to over promise, and then under deliver, because there’s a lot of discussion about that right now. But I think across the country, our vaccination programs are just really getting started. Everybody started very conservatively. We didn’t want to foul this up. We learned how to do this. And I think all of our programs are going to accelerate substantially going into the future, so that’s an aspiration. I hope we can make it,” he said.
A major problem is the fact that over 12.4 million vaccine doses have been distributed to states, but nearly 10 million of them haven’t been administered yet.
Trump and administration officials noted that states are in charge of when vaccinations are done.
“The Federal Government has distributed the vaccines to the states. Now it is up to the states to administer. Get moving!” Trump wrote in a tweet.
Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a CNN contributor who is professor of medicine at the GW Medical Faculty Associates, said on the network that one way to catch up with early projections is holding mass vaccinations.
“We have literally 10 million doses sitting on the shelf around the country waiting to go into arms. We need mass events, we need to vaccinate on a large scale,” he said, suggesting holding such events at polling places.
Gen. Gustave Perna, the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, the government’s effort to speed up development of the vaccines, told reporters this week that in his opinion, distribution of the vaccines has been going well.
“We’ve allocated and will be available for final ordering, 20 million doses by this Thursday, distributed more than 14 million doses of vaccine to over 10,800 locations, and we have administered over 2 million doses in the last two weeks. Really, a remarkable feat. And everybody collectively should be very proud, right?” he said.
Perna said the government is working with states to administer vaccines faster, including making sure longterm healthcare facilities were ready to administer shots, and working with Walgreens and CVS.
“I do believe, as been reported to me, is that vaccine allocations or uptake usually starts out a little slow,” he added. “And then it increases exponentially.”