The Trump administration will recommend vaccinating everyone over 65 and send all available doses of the coronavirus vaccines to states rather than holding back millions of shots for second doses, two policy reversals meant to accelerate the lagging rollout.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will announce the updated policy in a call with governors on Tuesday, according to the Washington Post. The administration had previously decided to withhold roughly half of all available doses of the vaccines to ensure that people who received the first shots would have access to the second.
President-elect Joe Biden has already announced his administration’s plans to release all available doses at one time in the hopes of immunizing 100 million Americans within the first 100 days of him taking office.
Members of the Trump administration’s vaccine development initiative Operation Warp Speed are expected to make the announcement Tuesday afternoon, having already discussed the difficulties faced by states in administering the doses according to a phased plan.
Administration officials have determined that state healthcare officials have adhered to the rigid allocation guidelines that prioritize certain groups to receive the doses first, such as elderly long-term care residents and healthcare workers. Under the new policy, doses will be made available to wider swaths of the population, to include all adults over 65 as well as to those with underlying health conditions that increase severity of COVID-19 infection, such as diabetes, heart disease, and chronic pulmonary disease. HHS will also announce plans to increase access to the shots at pharmacies and community centers.
“States have to expand. It’s like boarding an airplane. Your group gets called, but you don’t wait for everyone before you announce the next group,” a Warp Speed official told the Washington Post.
The policy reversal comes as the average rate of daily new cases hit its highest level so far, with more than 246,000 new cases confirmed each day over the past week. New cases hit an all-time high on Jan. 8 of more than 310,000, according to the COVID Tracking Project.