Experts question vaccine site closures amid BA.2 threat

State and local officials are scaling back public health efforts and closing vaccination sites amid a national lull in COVID-19 activity and low demand for the services, a move some health experts say may be premature amid the omicron subvariant BA.2's growing prevalence in the U.S., The New York Times reported March 30.

States and cities across the U.S. are closing free COVID-19 testing and mass vaccination sites. San Antonio closed its mass vaccination site March 25 after averaging fewer than 50 vaccinations a day. At its peak, the site was vaccinating about 3,500 people daily. 

Some cities are opting to scale back vaccination efforts in other ways. Chicago plans to curtail vaccine incentive efforts, including giving vaccine recipients a $50 gift card, in April to save money ahead of anticipated cuts in federal funding, according to Allison Arwady, MD, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health. 

"It's definitely the time to be pulling back on some resources," she told the Times.

However, some public health officials have warned that it could be difficult to quickly ramp up vaccinations and testing again if another surge driven by the BA.2 subvariant occurs. 

"We have to be cautious in how we move forward," Ben Weston, MD, chief health policy adviser for Milwaukee County, Wis., where vaccine clinics remain open, told the Times. "Imagine that we're a boat at sea and we just got off the largest tidal wave we've ever been on. It would be a strange time to throw out the life jackets."

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