Dr Richard Dang, assistant professor USC School of Pharmacy administers COVID-19 vaccine to Ashley Van Dyke (left) as mass-vaccination of healthcare workers takes place at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California, US, Jan 15, 2021. (Photo: Irfan Khan/Pool via REUTERS)
Scattered shortages of COVID-19 vaccines persisted on Saturday (Jan 16) under pressure from growing demand, as previously inoculated Americans returned for their required second shots and millions of newly eligible people scrambled to get their first. The supply gaps, coming as the US vaccination effort enters its second month, prompted some healthcare systems to suspend appointments for first-time vaccine seekers and one New York healthcare system to cancel a slew of existing ones.
"As eligibility increases, you just increase demand, but we're not able to increase supply," Northwell Health spokesman Joe Kemp told Reuters by telephone.
Northwell, New York's largest healthcare provider, offers appointments only as it gets more vaccines, and only after allocating doses to people scheduled for their second shots, Kemp said.
Although the supply flow has been sporadic, Northwell expects to offer appointments in the coming week, he added.
Both approved vaccines, one from Pfizer and BioNTech and the other from Moderna, require a booster three to four weeks after the first shot to maximise their effectiveness against the coronavirus.
While healthcare workers and nursing home residents and staff got first priority, eligibility for the vaccines has since widened, with some states opening it to healthy people aged 65 and up and people of any age with pre-existing conditions.
Besides New York, signs of vaccine supply strains appeared in Vermont, Michigan, South Carolina, New Jersey and Oregon.
In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown said vaccinations for seniors and educators would be delayed, while Vermont Governor Phil Scott said the state would focus exclusively on its over-75 population because of "unpredictable” federal supplies//CNA