WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The vaccine process is moving too slowly, and on Tuesday the federal government announced a new plan to speed things up.
“This next phase reflects the urgency of the situation we face. Every vaccine dose that is sitting in a warehouse rather than going into an arm can mean one more life lost or one more hospital bed occupied,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.
As part of the next phase, the federal government will expand groups vaccinated to those over 65 and people under 65 with comorbidities.
Their guidelines will also encourage states to open additional vaccination locations, including pharmacies and megasites, release the entire supply of the vaccine instead of holding doses in storage and allocate more vaccine to states getting doses out the fastest.
“We clearly have enough vaccine at this point to expand and get more and more of the vulnerable individuals in our country vaccinated,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said.
The federal government in many cases had blamed the states for the slow rollout, but leaders in many states say they don’t know how many doses are coming, or when, until the last minute.
“The information and transparency and the regularity is not there. The predictability is not there,” Dr. Mark Keroack with Baystate Health Massachusetts said.
West Virginia has been faster than any state in the nation at giving out the vaccine.
Governor Jim Justice said it is because they relied on smaller pharmacies, instead of big chains like Walgreens and CVS.
New York has been making headlines for the opposite reason and their slow vaccine rollout.
Miller’s Pharmacy, near Rochester, New York, was approved to be a distribution site back in October.
They still have no vaccines.
“They have not caught up with the distribution to the pharmacies to be able to handle that,” Jennifer Murray with Miller’s Pharmacy said.
In Florida vaccination registration websites have crashed and phone lines are so busy in Palm Beach County, the health department asked for volunteers to help answer the thousands of calls.
“I think the most important thing is we lower the expectation and emphasize it is a supply and demand issue. I am hopeful we will see the federal supply rolling out soon. It is not conspiracy theories or anything else. It is simple that in every vaccination program you have three phases and the first phase is very frustrating for everybody,” Dr. Alina Alonso with the Florida Health Department said.
Officials with the Florida Health Department emphasized that the vaccine is free. They say the only possible charge would be a $15 administrative fee billed to insurance companies.
NEWSNATION’S MARNI HUGHES TALKS WITH DR. GEORGE DIAZ, AN INFECTIOUS DISEASE DOCTOR AT PROVIDENCE REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER EVERETT, ABOUT THE CHANGES TO VACCINE DISTRIBUTION.