Three dozen mayors ask Biden for direct supply of the COVID-19 vaccine
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: New York State COVID-19 vaccination center at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City
By Peter Szekely and Dan Whitcomb
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Mayors of around three dozen U.S. cities have asked the incoming Biden administration to send COVID-19 vaccine shipments directly to them, bypassing state governments. Local officials are best positioned to speed up the lagging vaccinations.
The move came as Biden, who will take office on Wednesday, prepares a $ 1.9 trillion stimulus proposal that will fuel the nation's response to the virus and the slow roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines should accelerate
"While it is important to work with state and local health officials, health care providers, pharmacies and clinics, it has to be nimble and fill in gaps that are unique to each local area," said the letter from 37 mayors, including New York's City, Los Angeles and Seattle.
A Biden interim official declined to comment on the letter, but said Biden would speak about his vaccination plans on Friday.
As of Thursday, only 11.1 million coronavirus shots from more than 30 million doses so far distributed to states had been administered, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These efforts have not fulfilled the outgoing Trump administration's pledge to give 20 million Americans a first taste of the two-dose therapy that it had given late last year.
The vaccination campaign has been hampered in part by strict rules in most states that require healthcare workers to receive their first vaccinations. Americans classified by the government as "non-essential workers" have been told to wait months for their turn.
The mayors, whose cities represent a total of 40 million people, said few of them got either of the two approved drugs direct from the federal government.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized one of Pfizer Inc (NYSE 🙂 and partner BioNTech and a second from Moderna (NASDAQ 🙂 Inc in case of emergency. Both require two recordings weeks apart.
A vaccine from Johnson & Johnson (NYSE :), due to be launched by the US Food and Drug Administration in March, requires only one dose.
State, federal and local leaders hope to accelerate efforts to vaccinate millions of Americans as more than 1 million people have contracted infections every six days for the past five weeks, according to a Reuters tally have increased. The death toll stands at 385,324.
The number of COVID-19 patients sick enough to be hospitalized has been relatively stable over the past week. 130,214 patients were reported Wednesday evening and California, which was hit by the recent outbreak, also showed signs of stabilization.
"I've never seen this volume of calls in 30 years, including the riot," said Eileen Cegarra, 56, ambulance dispatch center manager at Care Ambulance Service, one of the largest ambulance companies in the Los Angeles area.
California hospitals are so full of COVID-19 patients that state officials ordered a delay in some surgeries that were viewed as less critical to save space for serious cancer removal and necessary heart surgery.
Outside many hospitals in Southern California, ambulances loaded with COVID-19 patients often wait hours for beds to become available in intensive care units or emergency rooms.
Despite signs of a slowdown in new infections and hospital stays, public health officials fear travel over the holidays could trigger another spike before enough vaccinations are completed to stop the virus.
In Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine reported at a press conference that the hospital stays in that Midwestern state were over a period of 21 days.
In New Jersey, state health officials have spearheaded a model that predicts an increase in hospital admissions, which will generally lag behind the incidence of new cases over the next week.