It's time to set a new goal for the US vaccine rollout: over 2 million shots per day.
- Pfizer and Moderna expect to deliver 220 million vaccine doses to the US by March 31.
- The US government has distributed 50 million, so 170 million more should be available soon.
- That’s enough to about double the pace of vaccination.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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There was sort of an odd situation when Joe Biden took office. His big promise on vaccination was to administer 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office, but the Trump administration had ramped up vaccination to the point that by the time the new administration took office, the US had nearly hit Biden’s promised pace of 1 million shots a day. In fact, on Inauguration Day the US was already averaging 912,000 shots a day for the past week, and eclipsed the 1 million per day average on January 23.
But 1 million shots a day also obviously wasn’t going to be good enough.
To hit Dr. Anthony Fauci’s goal of administering a full vaccine course (generally, two shots) to every American who wanted one by the end of the summer, we would need to continue to increase the pace of vaccinations to about 2 million shots a day. If we gave out just a million shots a day, it would take us well into 2022 to get a full course to all Americans. And if we want to get people vaccinated faster to better get ahead of more-contagious virus variants, we’ll have to go even faster than 2 million a day.
Now everyone admits a million shots a day isn’t enough
Fortunately, the vaccine rollout has continued to accelerate, and Biden and his team have updated their rhetoric. They are treating a million a day as a “floor” and making clear they intend to get faster over time, intending to have enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of summer, approximately 200 days after Biden’s term started.
And we are already above the million-a-day “floor.” Over the past week, the US have averaged 1.35 million doses administered per day, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker, with some days hitting 1.7 million shots given.
Read more: Tell people the truth: The vaccines are great
The Biden administration told states and other jurisdictions last week it would increase vaccine allocations by 16% to 10 million doses weekly, and it promises to maintain that pace for at least three weeks. This will allow states to plan around future deliveries and more freely administer the doses they have in their possession. Deliveries of 10 million doses a week are sufficient to sustain a pace of 1.3 million shots administered a day.
But there are reasons to think the pace of vaccination will and should get faster than that very soon.
Embedded in government projections: Imminently faster vaccine distribution
The US government expects to receive 220 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines by the end of March. As of Monday, the government has only distributed about 50 million doses, so there should be another 170 million doses made available over approximately the next two months — which should be enough for about 20 million shots a week.
“I think people should expect that we will be well north of 2 million a day by some point in February, and we should be able to get to 2-and-a-half,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “And when Johnson & Johnson comes on board, 3 million a day.”
Jha said he expects the vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson, which isn’t yet approved for emergency use but produced good efficacy results in trial data released last week, to start affecting vaccination totals by March, with more significant quantities available in April.
Read more: Ramping up vaccine distribution will be meaningless if we run out of the critical supplies needed to sustain that success
In other words, we should expect to exceed not just 1 million shots daily but 2 million shots daily, and we should expect vaccination of every American who wants it to be complete before the end of the summer. Jha says that should even include children — the vaccines are not yet approved for use in people under 16, but he believes we will be giving them to kids by summer.
Just because the pace keeps increasing doesn’t mean we should be satisfied with it — faster is always better — but instead of just despair and consternation I think it’s important to note that our pace keeps speeding up and there’s reason to think it will keep doing so.
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