States encouraged to vaccinate low-risk people with unused doses sitting in freezers: HHS


States are now receiving new guidelines on how to most efficiently distribute the first dose of COVID-19 vaccinations.

On Wednesday, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, advised states to begin vaccinating lower-priority groups for COVID-19 with vials that would otherwise sit unused in the freezer, according to NBC News.

“It would be much better to move quickly and end up vaccinating some lower-priority people than to let vaccines sit around while states try to micromanage this process,” Azar said in a briefing.

“Faster administration could save lives right now, which means we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” he said.

The statement comes as Azar expresses his frustrations that people who did not fit certain criteria were unable to get vaccinated by the start of the New Year.

About 17.3 million vaccine doses have been distributed to states, while 5.3 million people have received an initial dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This is considerably less than the 20 million people the CDC hoped to have vaccinated by the end of 2020, according to the CDC’s website.

While the CDC can provide recommendations for how to distribute the vaccine, it is ultimately up to the states to determine who is first in line.

Azar spoke with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by phone on Wednesday about how the state will proceed with adjusted qualifications for people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Two weeks ago, DeSantis said that he would prioritize people over the age of 65 and people whose jobs put them at risk. His decision was met with disappointment as it contributed to low vaccination rates.

New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Wednesday that her state plans to be less rigid as they continue to vaccinate throughout the state.

“It is not necessary to vaccinate all individuals in one phase before initiating the next phase,” she said during a briefing.

“The phases may in fact overlap,” she added. “The movement between phases will be very fluid. One phase will overlap with another. We will not wait for all individuals in one phase to be vaccinated before opening up to additional groups.”

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