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HHS Expected to Expand Vaccine Distribution To Elderly

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The Trump administration is expected to alter its coronavirus vaccine distribution guidance, recommending that people aged 65 and older are made eligible to be inoculated, The New York Times reported.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense are expected to announce the new guidance at a noon press conference, an anonymous official briefed on the announcement told the Times. The change to the recommendations is intended to quicken the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine, which has been far behind pace.

“I really expect the pace of administration to go up pretty massively in the next couple weeks,” Nancy Messonnier, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told STAT News last week.

In addition to the elderly, the new HHS guidance is expected to also include adults with pre-existing conditions, according to The Times. The Trump administration will also no longer stockpile second doses for people who have already been vaccinated.

Community centers and pharmacies will be able to administer the vaccine as well, health officials are expected to announce, according to The Times.

Messonnier worried that the vaccine rollout has been much slower than expected because local jurisdictions and hospitals aren’t able to find enough people with priority access to give it to, according to STAT News. She said if a hospital has extra doses, they shouldn’t hesitate in giving them to individuals with lower priority.

“I really hope that articulating these phases … isn’t leading to unnecessary barriers,” she said, STAT News reported.

Since vaccinations began in December, only the most vulnerable people, like frontline health care workers, were given access to it, Axios reported. Just 9 million people have been vaccinated though the federal government has distributed 25.5 million doses, according to CDC data.

Meanwhile, coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations have continued to spike, according to The COVID Tracking Project. On Monday, the U.S. reported 193,857 new coronavirus cases and 1,739 new deaths while 1,739 Americans remained hospitalized.

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