Covid-19 vaccine distribution throughout the United States has been slower than expected so far, and CDC data shows that distribution rates vary drastically by state.
Why America's vaccine rollout has been slower than expected—and where states stand
CDC is publishing daily updates on the distribution and administration of the two Covid-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States—one manufactured by Moderna and the other manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech. As of Tuesday morning, CDC data showed that the federal government has distributed 17,020,575 doses of the Covid-19 vaccines.
However, the data also showed that a vast majority of those doses hadn't yet been administered. According to the data, 4,836,469 Americans had received their first doses of the two-dose Covid-19 vaccines as of Tuesday morning.
According to Axios, the data shows America's Covid-19 vaccine rollout is taking longer than expected—with only about 30% of the more than 17 million distributed doses being administered and less than 1.5% of the U.S. population receiving their first doses of the vaccines. In comparison, the Trump administration last year said it would distribute at least 20 million doses of the vaccine by 2020's end. Moncef Slaoui—the scientific adviser of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration's coronavirus vaccine initiative—last week acknowledged that the number of Americans who had received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine was "lower than what [the administration] hoped for."
America's vaccine rollout has been slower than federal officials had expected because of several factors, including administrative burdens, limited resources, inadequate planning, and poor timing, Axios reports. For example, Operation Warp Speed officials have said recent holidays, snowstorms, and reporting lags led to a lower number of vaccinations in December. Further, according to Axios, relying on already strained hospitals and health care providers to administer the vaccines likely has contributed to the slow rollout.
In addition, state officials have said they've lacked federal support for their vaccination efforts. According to Axios, state officials for months have warned that they don't have adequate resources to accomplish successful vaccination campaigns, but they've only just begun receiving federal funds to support the initiatives.
Moreover, while Trump administration officials have repeatedly said states are responsible for determining how to vaccinate their residents, the absence of federal guidance on vaccine prioritization has resulted in varied approaches throughout the country—and those variances have created disparities in who's receiving Covid-19 vaccines.
For instance, West Virginia is on track to finish vaccinating its nursing home residents and staff before some states even begin inoculating their nursing home residents and staff, Politico reports. Overall, CDC's data shows that South Dakota has administered the highest percentage of its vaccine doses, at about 65%, while Kansas has administered the lowest percentage, at about 15%.
Federal officials say vaccinations will pick up speed
For their part, Trump administration officials have pushed back on states' claims that the federal government isn't adequately coordinating with states. For instance, an HHS spokesperson told Politico that federal officials speak with state officials several times a week and keep track of statewide data to "learn how we can better assist future efforts."
Federal officials also say Covid-19 vaccinations are beginning to move at a faster pace, and a senior HHS official on Tuesday told Politico that the Trump administration is accelerating its plan to start offering Covid-19 vaccines at pharmacies nationwide.
Separately, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday said he expects the United States could soon be administering at least one million Covid-19 vaccinations a day, despite the lags. "Any time you start a big program, there's always glitches," Fauci said. "I think the glitches have been worked out."
And with winter holidays now over, Fauci said, "[O]nce you get rolling and get some momentum, I think we can achieve one million a day or even more."
Similarly, Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during an interview with STAT News on Tuesday, said, "I really expect the pace of administration to go up pretty massively in the next couple weeks."
Messonnier said health care providers now have a better understanding of with the distribution and administration process, and the efficiency of vaccine administrations therefore should improve. "It's the early stages of a really complicated task, but a task that we're up for," she said.
America grapples with persistently high rates of new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths
The delayed vaccine rollout comes as the United States continues to see persistently high rates of new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths—which public health officials expect to spike again in the next few weeks because of Americans gathering with others over the recent holidays.
According to data compiled by the New York Times, U.S. officials as of Wednesday morning had reported a total of about 21.1 million cases of the novel coronavirus since America's epidemic began—up from about 20.8 million cases reported as of Tuesday morning.
According to the Times, the United States' average daily number of newly reported coronavirus cases over the past week was 219,684—which is up by 2% when compared with the average from two weeks ago.
As of Wednesday morning, data from the Times showed that the rates of newly reported coronavirus cases were "staying high" in Washington, D.C., and 39 states that have had a daily average of at least 15 newly reported cases per 100,000 people over the past week. Those states are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, the Times' data showed that, as of Wednesday morning, the daily average number of newly reported cases over the past seven days was "going down" in 10 states that had been seeing comparatively higher rates of coronavirus transmission. Those states are Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming.
In Guam, Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, meanwhile, rates of newly reported coronavirus cases were "staying low" as of Wednesday morning, the Times' data showed.
Meanwhile, U.S. hospitalizations for Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, reached a new high on Tuesday, according to data from The Atlantic's COVID Tracking Project. The data showed that 131,215 Americans with Covid-19 were hospitalized for treatment on Tuesday, including 23,512 who were receiving care in an ICU and 7,976 who were on a ventilator.
According to the Times, U.S. officials on Tuesday also reported about 3,664 new deaths tied to the coronavirus. As of Wednesday morning, U.S. officials had reported a total of about 357,394 U.S. deaths linked to the novel coronavirus since the country's epidemic began, up from about 353,730 deaths reported as of Tuesday morning.
(Nadeem, Reuters, 1/5; Owens, Axios, 1/6; Roubein et al., Politico, 1/5; Neergaard, Associated Press, 1/5; Joseph, STAT News, 1/5; Roubein, Politico, 1/5; Adams, Becker's Hospital Review, 1/5; New York Times, 1/6; "The COVID Tracking Project," The Atlantic, accessed 1/6).