8 Democratic governors demand HHS release more vaccine doses

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The Democratic governors of eight states — including California, New York and Michigan — are demanding that federal health officials release doses of Covid-19 vaccines currently being held back to ensure people who got their first dose can get their second.

The federal government has held back doses equal to the amount it has shipped out, to ensure that everyone who is vaccinated completes the recommended two-shot sequence. But with a new, likely more transmissible coronavirus strain now circulating, public health experts have urged state and federal authorities to pick up the pace of vaccination.

“The failure to distribute these doses to states who request them is unconscionable and unacceptable. We demand that the federal government begin distributing these reserved doses to states immediately,” wrote Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The governors cited concerns over the new coronavirus strain, known as B.1.1.7 and first identified in Britain.

HHS responds: It appears unlikely that HHS will fulfill the governors’ request.

“Operation Warp Speed is continuing to ensure second doses are available to vaccine administration sites, at appropriate intervals, as directed by jurisdiction leaders,” an HHS spokesperson told POLITICO, referring to the federal Covid-19 vaccine initiative. "There will always be a lag between shots allocated and those ordered, between those ordered and those delivered, between those delivered and those administered, and between those administered and reported as administered."

The slow-moving rollout: The federal government had shipped more than 21.4 million doses Covid-19 vaccines as of Thursday morning, according to CDC data. But only 5.9 million people have been vaccinated with the first dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, although public health experts have cautioned that vaccination data reporting may be lagging.

What’s next: HHS says it is encouraging states to expand priority groups to ensure all vaccines that have been delivered are quickly administered.

“We would be delighted to learn that jurisdictions have actually administered many more doses than they are presently reporting,” the spokesperson said.

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