The Trump administration changed the course of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out on Tuesday, advising states to distribute all available vaccines to anyone 65 years old or older. Public health officials were previously reserving a certain number of coronavirus shots to ensure that patients could get their second dose, but White House officials announced the change on Tuesday, according to a report by The Associated Press.
This new move from President Donald Trump's team mirrors the plan set out by President-elect Joe Biden, who said he will not hold back any COVID-19 vaccines once he takes office next week. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that "the administration in the states has been too narrowly focused," adding that new updates in the manufacturing process make it feasible to distribute the vaccine more broadly. The new guidelines advise states to vaccinate anyone over the age of 65, and anyone with certain underlying health conditions that make them high-risk, regardless of age.
"We now believe that our manufacturing is predictable enough that we can ensure second doses are available for people from ongoing production," Azar said in an interview on ABC News' Good Morning America. "So everything is now available to our states and our health care providers."
The particulars of vaccine distribution still lie with state governments, though over the last few weeks state officials have shown how the federal guidance can make or break those efforts. The Trump administration has been heavily criticized for its slow and meandering approach to vaccinations, as new cases of the coronavirus proliferate all over the country.
Azar said that this was a move "to the next phase of the vaccine program," though it was never explicitly described in any press briefing this way before. He went on: "We've already distributed more vaccine than we have health care workers and people in nursing homes. We've got to get to more channels of administration. We've got to get it to pharmacies, get it to community health centers."
The Trump administration's last-minute push for vaccinations comes amid rising outcry for the president's impeachment and removal from office, and with less than two weeks before the end of his term. Biden is expected to give a speech on Thursday, with more details on his ambitious plan to distribute 100 million vaccines within the first 100 days of his presidency. He will be inaugurated on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.