Vaccine Distribution Not as Fast as Expected

by Nicholas Schade ‘23

The Food and Drug Administration issued emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine December 11 and the Moderna vaccine December 18 to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. As of January 19, over 16.5 million doses of both vaccines have been used. Although both of the vaccines have been found to be close to 95% effective in preventing Covid-19 symptoms, the overall coronavirus pandemic and its safety restrictions will continue for months to come.

At the moment, the United States has only a limited supply of Covid-19 vaccines to distribute. The federal government has bought a total of 400 million vaccines from both Moderna and Pfizer. However, most of the vaccines have not been manufactured yet and will be delivered throughout the country  in fractions until June and July. By the rate at which the country receives shipments of Covid-19 vaccines, federal officials estimate that there will be enough to vaccinate only 30 million people by the end of January and 50 million people by the end of February.

Since there is a limited number of vaccines at the national level, there is also a limited number of vaccines at the state level. As of today, Maryland has been allotted a total of around 561,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines. While only 178,000 of the shots have been used so far, this supply is not nearly enough to vaccinate all of Maryland’s 6.04 million population.

To make sure that the vaccines go to those who need them most first, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created phases in which they recommend how each state distributes the doses. While each state has made alterations to the CDC’s recommendations, each plan generally sees the same groups of people getting vaccinated first and last. 

In Phase 1A of Maryland’s vaccination plan healthcare workers and first responders have top priority in receiving the Covid-19 vaccine. After healthcare workers come school teachers and elderly citizens ages 75 and above, followed by essential workers and citizens ages 65-74 in Phase 1C. Phase 2 entails adults with underlying health conditions, and finally, the general population would be vaccinated in Phase 3. Although there’s no set date for when each phase will begin and end, Secretary of Human Health Alex Azar believes that the Covid-19 vaccines will not be available to the general public nationwide until the second quarter of the year around April or May. Dr. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, made a similar prediction, stating that the vaccines should be open to the entire public by the spring.

With both a limited number of vaccines and ample plans for anybody in the U.S. to receive the Covid-19 vaccines other than healthcare workers and elderly citizens at the moment, safety restrictions like mask wearing and social distancing are far from over. For such restrictions to be lifted, the United States would have to achieve herd immunity, where enough people have been vaccinated against Covid-19 for transmission of the virus to cease. Following his prediction that vaccines could be open to the general public by the early spring, Fauci states that the country could reach herd immunity by the late spring and that most safety restrictions could continue into the late summer and early fall.