6M COVID-19 vaccines unnecessarily stockpiled, feds say

As many as 6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses are being unnecessarily stockpiled, federal officials estimate, according to The New York Times

Freeing those doses up for use could increase the number of vaccines for states by more than 10 percent and speed up the U.S. vaccination campaign, according to the Times

Some doses are being stockpiled for the federal government's initiative to vaccinate residents and staff of long-term care facilities. Others are being stored to ensure providers have second doses available on time for patients. 

The CDC decided how many vaccines to send to long-term care facilities based on the number of beds in the facilities, though occupancy rates are the lowest in years, the Times reported. The agency later doubled that allotment to cover vaccines for staff, though 63 percent of staff members didn't receive a vaccine, so many vaccines allocated for the program have gone unused.

Though the White House has been urging states not to stockpile second doses, many providers still are, the Times reported. 

"We believe that some health care providers are regularly holding back doses that are intended as first doses and instead keeping them in reserve for second doses," Andy Slavitt, a White House adviser, told the Times earlier this month. "That does not need to happen and should not happen."

When President Joe Biden took office, the White House began giving states three weeks notice of how many vaccine doses they'd receive from the federal government so states would know exactly how many vaccine appointments to make and not have to stockpile any doses. But healthcare experts told the Times that providers are still apprehensive when it comes to their vaccine supply. 

"There's been this big push that we shouldn’t hold vaccine for second doses. We should just give it because there will be more," Marcus Plescia, MD, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, told the Times. "But I think that's asking a lot from vaccine providers, because their heart is in the place that they gave somebody a vaccine and they want to make sure when that person comes back for their second dose, it will be there."

Some governors, including Andrew Cuomo of New York, have been asking the federal government to have a separate reserve for second doses, the Times reported.

In the last month, about 78 percent of vaccines allocated to states by the federal government have been administered, according to the CDC's data. In late January, less than half were administered, the Times reported. 

And at least 20 states told the Times they have shifted or plan to shift doses that were set aside for long-term care facilities to be used by other providers. 

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