Politicians and doctors are reportedly clawing back COVID-19 vaccine doses from overstocked nursing homes

  • Millions of vaccine doses have gone unused at long-term care facilities, according to a report from The New York Times. 
  • Some have left nursing homes, and many have opted to not take the vaccine, leaving shots behind. 
  • Several states are trying to claim unused doses to provide more to the rest of the population.
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States are trying to seize stockpiles of COVID-19 vaccines allocated to nursing homes in an effort to get shots in more arms, the New York Times reported Friday. 

States such as New York, Michigan, and Virginia are grabbing back at millions of vaccine doses given to long-term care facilities through a federal program, the Times said.

Those doses have gone largely unused, as the government allocated shots based on the number of beds per facility instead of the number of people, which is far lower amid the pandemic, the report said, citing the American Health Care Association.

On top of that, just 78% of residents and 38% of staff members have received one or more doses, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The Federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program launched just days after the vaccines, one from Pfizer/BioNTech and the other from Moderna, were granted emergency approval. The CDC began doling out doses to partners, including CVS and Walgreens, to get shots in arms of the elderly population in long-term facilities, who are most at risk of contracting and dying from the disease. 

In its own report, Bloomberg noted that the process of administering shots in the facilities is more cumbersome than doing so at a mass vaccination site, where thousands receive shots. At the facilities, staff must travel to the homes and then go room-by-room.

Of the 4.92 million doses allocated through the federal program, less than half, or 2.1 million, have been used, Bloomberg data shows. To put that in perspective, that’s more than the 30% of unused doses overall nationwide. 

In the US overall vaccination rollout, about 6 million vaccines have been stockpiled for the second dose, the Times said. Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, separated by about three to four weeks.

Government officials and medical personnel are split on whether to save second doses for people or prioritize getting more shots in arms. Federal officials are providing three-week supply projects to limit worry that a second dose won’t be available. Even so, some, such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, say they will reserve second doses anyway, the Times said in its report. 

So far, 41 million people have received one or more shots of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to CDC data. At the current rate of in the US of 1.6 million doses administered per day, it will take 9 months to vaccinate three-fourths of the population with both doses, according to Bloomberg data. 

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