The Biden administration will start to offer unordered COVID-19 vaccines to states that want them, a major attempt to address regional mismatches in demand.
States can still decide how much of their population-based allocation to order each week, and won’t be punished for failing to demonstrate high demand or the ability to get shots into arms.
But if a governor doesn’t request his or her full weekly allocation, other states can tap into their leftover doses from a federal reserve.
“That same governor could the following week decide to order back to their maximum allocation,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “It gives flexibility week by week, but it’s really just an indication that we’re in a different phase than we were even a couple weeks ago in terms of access to supply.”
States readily snapped up available doses in the early stages of the vaccine rollout, which worked methodically through priority groups. Now, all adults are eligible for the vaccine, resulting in fragmented demand among different age groups or in different pockets of the country.
States like Arkansas, for instance, have struggled to fill their slots while other places are reporting ongoing progress in rolling out shots.
President Biden planned to address the state of vaccinations from the White House on Tuesday.
The administration will characterize the move as an attempt to be more flexible and targeted in reaching people now that eight in 10 seniors have received at least one dose, and the most eager have been served.
The White House had been reluctant to stray from the population-based system. It scrapped a plan by the departing Trump administration to base allocations on how swiftly states could use up their supplies.
More recently, the administration refused Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s request for extra vaccines to combat a nation-leading surge in cases.
Ms. Psaki said the refusal was justified.
“Even just a few weeks ago we were in a different phase of our vaccination effort,” she said. “States were ordering at or near their full allocation.”
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