U.S. finally hits its stride with COVID-19 vaccination rollouts


‘We view it as a war’

The White House COVID-19 Response Team has worked hard to better coordinate the work of so many people at both the federal and state levels, Andy Slavitt, senior adviser for the team, said in an interview.

“We view it as a war, and in a war, you do everything: You bring experienced personnel; you bring all the resources to bear; you create multiple routes,” Mr. Slavitt said. “You don’t leave anything to chance.”

Among the levers the administration has pulled, using the Defense Production Act has helped vaccine manufacturers get needed supplies, Mr. Slavitt said.

The administration has set up an array of Federal Emergency Management Agency–run community vaccination centers and mobile vaccination sites to complement state-led efforts, and it’s activated a federal health law called the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, which provides immunity from liability for retired doctors and nurses, among others, who sign up to help give vaccinations. That’s helped get more people into the field giving shots.

The administration also canceled a plan to allocate vaccines to states based on their pace of administration, which would have punished underperforming states. Instead, doses are allocated based on population.

In a media call on April 7, when asked whether the administration would send additional vaccines to Michigan, a state that’s seeing a surge of COVID-19 cases with more transmissible variants, Mr. Slavitt said they weren’t managing vaccine supply “according to some formula.”

He said they were distributing based on population “because that’s fundamental,” but were also locating vaccines “surgically in places that have had the greatest disease and where people have the greatest exposure.”

He said sites like community health centers and retail pharmacies have the power to order vaccines directly from the federal government, which helps get more supply to harder-hit areas.

Mr. Slavitt said hitting 4.1 million daily vaccinations on April 3 was gratifying.

“I’ve seen photographs ... of people breaking down in tears when they get their vaccine, people who are giving standing ovations to active military for taking care of them,” he said, “and I think about people who have gone for a long time without hope, or who have been very scared.

“It’s incredibly encouraging to think about maybe a few million people taking a step back to normal life again,” he said.

A version of this article first appeared on Medscape.com.


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