States look for more Covid-19 vaccine doses as the nation’s death toll nears 400,000
States are racing to get Covid-19 vaccine supplies and distribution in order as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned Friday of more contagious variants of coronavirus potentially exacerbating the spread.
CDC officials implored Americans to continue with preventative measures against the coronavirus, while highlighting the variant first identified in Britain known as B.1.1.7.
The B.1.1.7 variant appears to more readily infect human cells and one CDC simulation of its transmissibility raised concerns that it could become the most dominant form of coronavirus in March.
The CDC called for continued and aggressive vaccine distribution to try and stem the tide. “Higher vaccination coverage might need to be achieved to protect the public,” CDC researchers warned.
On Friday, 3,258 people died of Covid-19 in the US, as the total number of deaths from the pandemic edged closer to 400,000. The nation also recorded its 11th consecutive day of more than 200,000 infections, per Johns Hopkins University data.
At least 12.2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered as of Friday, according to the CDC amid a federal rollout that has received intense scrutiny and criticism from state officials.
Some states were upset by news from Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who said there is no “reserve stockpile” of vaccines available to release.
“We now have enough confidence that our ongoing production will be quality and available to provide the second dose for people, so we’re not sitting on a reserve anymore,” Azar told NBC News’ Lester Holt in an interview. “We’ve made that available to the states to order.”
Vaccine supply woes
Oregon Governor Kate Brown said she was “shocked and appalled” and said her state will have to enact a two-week delay in vaccinating more seniors.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Friday he is “extremely disappointed that we were lied to” about the reserve vaccines, and that the next vaccines “will be delivered in the future of the supply chain.”
“There is no influx of doses, contrary to a call we had with the Vice President [and] the Secretary of Health three days ago, where they informed us we would be getting an additional quantity available to the states,” the governor said.
Polis estimated that of the 58,000 remaining doses in Colorado, “they will likely all or almost all be used by Sunday.”
Governors from Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota wrote to Azar, critical of federal plans and hopeful they could purchase vaccines from manufacturers directly.
“Without additional supply or authorization to purchase directly, our states may be forced to cancel plans for public vaccination clinics in the coming weeks, which are expected to vaccinate tens of thousands. It’s time for the Trump administration to do the right thing and help us end this pandemic,” the letter states.
Pfizer on Friday tried to reassure state leadership and the public about production of its vaccine, saying it didn’t anticipate any interruptions in shipments.
“Operation Warp Speed has asked us to start shipping second doses only recently. As a result, we have on hand all the second doses of the previous shipments to the US. We are working around the clock to produce millions more each day,” Pfizer said in a statement to CNN.
Mask restrictions continue to fluctuate by state
Meantime, a recent coronavirus projection from the University of Washington estimates 566,720 deaths by May 1 in the US.
The university’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) said the figure could be lowered by about 32,000 deaths with universal mask requirements.
Mask requirements are strongly urged by health officials to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and its implementation is expected to have a direct effect on future infections and deaths. State and local responses have varied widely. Some states continue to maintain no mask directives, allowing businesses to set their own rules.
On Friday, Mississippi extended its mask-wearing mandate in all but nine counties until February 3.
“It is important that we continue to take this virus seriously. We are working on getting Mississippians vaccinated, but continue to social distance, keep gatherings small and wear your mask,” Gov. Tate Reeves said.
North Dakota, however, said officials are seeing its Covid-19 numbers falling from an earlier outbreak and Governor Doug Burgum said the mask mandate will be allowed to expire on Monday, reiterating at a news briefing “we must remain vigilant.”
North Dakota capacity limitations for bars, restaurants, and event venues will be modified from requirements to recommendations.
CNN’s Maggie Fox, Bianna Golodryga, Yon Pomrenze, Lauren del Valle, Melissa Alonso, Devon Sayers, Amanda Sealy, Kay Jones, Hollie Silverman and Rob Frehse contributed to this report.