- The Biden administration has set a target date of May 1, 2021, for all U.S. adults to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.
- The U.S. government has purchased hundreds of millions of doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson to help meet demand.
- Despite the increasing supply and availability of the vaccines, many Americans remain hesitant about getting vaccinated, which could prolong the pandemic.
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“It’s a great day to be a Mississippian! If you want a shot, you can get a shot!”
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves took to Twitter to announce that his state is expanding COVID-19 vaccinations to all residents 16 years or older.
It’s the second state to do so. Alaska was the first.
There are indications others could soon follow.
This comes as the White House is stepping up production and distribution of the vaccines.
President Biden has set a target date of May 1 for all U.S. adults to be eligible for the shots, saying it puts the nation on a path to get closer to “normal” by July 4.
“When I first heard that, I really sat up in my chair and said… I hope we’re not overpromising,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert and professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
“The companies must have given real firm assurances that they are going to produce and ship vaccines in sufficient amounts,” he told Healthline. “Because at the moment, demand continues to exceed supply.”
A week ago, the president ordered 100 million more doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine. The company is teaming up with rival drugmaker Merck to produce it.
But that shipment isn’t expected to be available until the second half of this year. The government had already ordered 600 million doses of the two-shot vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
So far, no COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for children under 16.
If there are no manufacturing disruptions and there’s a surplus, the administration says it could share vaccines with the world.
Experts say that would be in our best interest.
“We will not return to normal travel until there is better control of the spread of the virus worldwide,” said Cynthia Leifer, PhD, an associate professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at Cornell University.
But even when the shots are available, some people are still reluctant to take them.
Prison guards are refusing to take the vaccines at alarming rates, health officials say. That’s despite the number of infections in prisons running three times as high as in the general public.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that nearly 4 in 10 Republicans say they will either “definitely not” get vaccinated or will do so “only if required.”
Three southern states, Alabama, South Carolina, and Louisiana, are seeing demand waning.
Appointment slots at retail pharmacies are going unused all day.
Starting this week, South Carolina will lower the eligibility age to 55.
Experts say vaccine hesitancy puts everybody at risk.
“Those who refuse vaccines not only endanger themselves, they put others who are medically unable to get the vaccine at risk,” Leifer told Healthline. “And they delay us all from getting back to some semblance of normalcy.”
“The longer it takes to get everyone who can be vaccinated, vaccinated, the more people will get COVID, many of whom will die, and the more likely it will be that new variants will arise,” she added.
The Biden administration just expanded the group of medical professionals approved to give the shots.
The newly eligible group includes dentists, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), midwives, optometrists, paramedics, physician assistants, podiatrists, respiratory therapists, and veterinarians.
The administration is also vowing to ramp up the number of pharmacies, community centers, and federally run sites where you can get the vaccine.
“They have talked about having mobile units go out to rural areas to reach people who are homebound. I think that’s a very attractive notion,” Schaffner said.
How can you find a spot to get vaccinated?
By May 1, government officials say they’ll launch a “find a vaccination website” that will show the locations near you.
They will also set up a call center for those who don’t have internet access.