Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies worldwide have dedicated time and resources to developing an effective vaccine that can help end the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the beginning of March 2021, a new COVID-19 vaccine received Emergency Use Authorization by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. The first two vaccines authorized for emergency use in the United States in mid-December 2020 were developed by Moderna and the BioNTech and Pfizer partnership (Pfizer-BioNTech). These two COVID-19 vaccines have also received Emergency Use Authorization in Canada, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and other countries.
Other COVID-19 vaccines, including one manufactured by AstraZeneca, are expected to be authorized and administered in the United States in the coming months. They are currently being distributed and administered in other countries around the world, such as Argentina, the UK, and the European Union.
This monumental global effort has set a new record for vaccine development; the COVID-19 vaccine was developed, studied, and authorized in less than a year. The previous vaccine record was for Merck’s mumps vaccine, a project that took four and a half years for full development (from 1963 to 1967).
You may be wondering: How many people have been vaccinated in the US? How long will it take to vaccinate the US? What logistical challenges is the US facing? In this blog post, we discuss the progress and challenges of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to date.
How Many People Have Been Vaccinated in the Us?
Since mid-December 2020, the US has been working hard to inoculate as many Americans against COVID-19 as possible to avoid the spread of the disease and to finally bring down the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. The speed of COVID-19 vaccination administration has been continuously improving in the US; in early March 2021, healthcare professionals were administering around 1.9 million vaccine shots per day.
The first person vaccinated outside of a clinical trial in the US was Sandra Lindsay, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York, on December 14, 2020. Since then, as of March 4, 2021, more than 107 million vaccines have been delivered across the country, more than 80 million vaccines have been administered, and almost 27 million Americans are fully vaccinated—representing 8.1% of the US population.
Where Are the COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Being Distributed?
All 50 states have received shipments of the vaccine, have opened vaccination sites, and have gradually expanded eligibility based on the rollout recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Thus far, the number of weekly vaccines distributed to each state has been based on the size of their respective adult population.
Some state officials say they’re ready to administer thousands more vaccines every day if it wasn’t for one problem: vaccine production isn’t happening fast enough to match the demand for vaccinations. Each state and US territory has designed its own vaccine rollout plan and has allocated vaccines through county health offices, hospital systems, mass vaccination sites, mobile clinics, and pharmacies.
A running tally of how many vaccines each state and territory has received can be viewed here.
Due to all the logistical challenges of rapidly administering vaccines to every adult in the US, some people are finding it difficult to schedule their appointments, and many are concerned about delays in receiving their second dose. It is important to be aware, however, that health officials say that the timing of the second dose does not need to be exact.
“Do not panic,” said Dr. Buddy Creech, the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program director at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. “Even if it’s four weeks, six weeks, eight weeks before you can get that second dose, it’s fine from an immune system standpoint.”
The important thing is to get fully vaccinated as soon as it’s your turn. As more people are vaccinated, herd immunity builds and the virus has fewer opportunities to spread thus allowing for a decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases.
Initially, public health officials predicted that about half of the US population could receive at least one dose of the vaccine by late June, and the majority of the population could receive at least one dose of the vaccine by mid-October. However, in March 2021, the Biden administration said that the majority of US adults could receive their first vaccine dose even earlier than previous timelines—as early as May 2021.
Emerging Risks in the Us COVID-19 Vaccine Schedule
So, why is the vaccine rollout facing logistical challenges? The vaccine distribution needs sophisticated transportation equipment, trained healthcare professionals to administer the vaccine, and designated locations to vaccinate the public, making it logistically challenging for the scale needed to mass vaccinate.
Healthcare professionals, clinical-trial researchers, vaccination site staff, and volunteers have been working inexhaustibly to develop, distribute, and administer the vaccine shots. According to McKinsey & Co., there are six possible areas of risk to the rapid distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines based on the common operating model of an end-to-end vaccine deployment.
1. Raw-materials constraints in production scaling
Early evidence suggests that there is enough manufacturing capacity around the world for fill and finish materials and syringes. Nevertheless, suppliers of the specific chemical and biological components needed for the COVID-19 vaccine production are limited, and countries worldwide are competing for these resources.
2. Quality-assurance challenges in manufacturing
Ensuring the safety and efficacy of each vaccine produced has some quality-assurance challenges. The development, production, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines—a new class of vaccines—have required a great investment of resources, a more technical workforce, and an expansion in production facilities. Besides producing vaccines at an unprecedented scale, manufacturers must meet high-quality standards established by national regulators such as the FDA.
3. Cold-chain logistics and storage-management challenges
The distribution and long-term storage of the mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines require cold conditions. Significant amounts of dry ice are needed at various vaccination sites before the vaccines can be delivered. So far, US-Canadian dry-ice manufacturers have met the expected demands. Still, supply chains need strengthening to ensure all areas are well served—especially in developing countries with limited access to dry ice and cold storage.
4. Increased labor requirements
Handling and preparing COVID-19 vaccines requires complex protocols, which can stretch labor capacities and divert healthcare workers from other essential responsibilities.
5. Wastage at points of care
Potential errors in storing, preparing, and scheduling administration of shots at points of care can lead to wasted vaccine doses. Due to the mRNA vaccines’ temperature requirements, the appropriate on-site storage conditions are critical to avoid product waste.
6. IT challenges
Ensuring proper IT systems, such as immunization information systems and vaccine-tracking systems, is essential for distributing, allocating, recording, and monitoring the US COVID-19 vaccine schedule. Additionally, these IT systems must guarantee patient privacy and ensure protection against cyberthreats that have already occurred against COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers and regulators.
Protecting Yourself and Others While Awaiting a Vaccine
In addition to social distancing and wearing a face covering, getting tested is one way to help keep yourself and your community safe and stop the spread until you can receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Find a COVID-19 testing location near you today.
Curative Inc. and its subsidiary, Curative Management Services LLC, engage with medical entities that provide vaccination services.