To ensure doses don’t expire, some hospitals have begun inoculating family members of staff. In Washington, D.C., two residents were offered soon-to-be-expired vaccines at a grocery store pharmacy. DC Health officials told Stateline that vaccine administrators should strive for “zero waste.”
“If doses will expire due to missed appointments, they should administer the vaccine to anyone who wants to take it,” a spokesperson for DC Health said in an emailed statement.
In Florida and Tennessee last week, many older residents seeking a COVID-19 vaccination waited in line for hours. In Florida, some camped overnight. Meanwhile, wealthy donors to a tony nursing home in West Palm Beach, Florida, received the vaccine despite state guidelines prioritizing residents of long-term care homes.
In Maryland, health care officials have had to turn away people who signed up for a vaccine but did not qualify to receive one yet, while officials in Washington state have said they don’t want to act as the “vaccine police” and will administer shots on an honor system.
Some of the confusion and chaos surrounding the rollout is linked to the delay in federal funding for the vaccination effort, Blumenstock said. In late December, Congress allocated nearly $9 billion to help states distribute vaccines. If Congress had allocated funds to states in the spring or summer, he said, local officials would have had the time and resources to create a more efficient distribution effort.
The newly authorized funding has not been delivered to states, pending federal guidance and conditions. But when it comes in the next several weeks, it will make a big difference, he said.
“You can’t turn back the clock,” Blumenstock said. “The good news is the money is on its way and it really will help.”
Some state leaders, such as Republican Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, blame the CDC for delays, saying officials spent too much time focusing on who should receive vaccines first.
“Right now, the most important task that we have is getting vaccine out to the public,” he said at a Monday news conference. “That is our only way out of this.”
Public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines is increasing. Several recent polls show around 60% of Americans are willing to be vaccinated—a percentage that has increased steadily over several months.
Hannan at the Association of Immunization Managers understands the frustration of having to wait to get vaccinated, especially as hundreds of thousands of Americans are infected every day and the national death toll recently surpassed 350,000.
“I get it; people are dying,” Hannan said. “We have got to get the vaccine out.”