How quickly can US ramp up vaccinations?

By KCBS Radio

President Biden announced Tuesday that his administration is increasing the vaccine supply to states starting next week by about 16%.

Biden said the government will make 10.1 million doses available next week, up from the expected 8.6 million, and will deliver enough doses to inoculate 300 million Americans by the end of the summer.

"I think the most important thing for people to realize is we’re getting a lot better," said Dr. Eric Toner, senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security speaking on KCBS Radio’s "Ask an Expert" segment Tuesday, before the White House announcement.

"The rollout has been slow - slower than we had hoped for - and has been problematic of course. But we started off this month of January with just under 300,000 vaccinations per day. We’re now up to 1.5 million vaccinations per day. So we’re doing a whole heck of a lot better in just three weeks."

Dr. Toner said there is a limit to how much more vaccinations can ramp up.

"The question now is whether that trend will continue, or have we capped the number of vaccinations we can give because the supply, the flow of vaccines from manufacturers is now at its peak? And it seems we may be reaching that point."

He said the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are very complicated and difficult to manufacture, so increasing supply is not as simple as sharing the formula with other manufacturers and drug makers.

"We are probably going to be at this level of vaccinations with a million, a million and a half doses per day for the next month or so," he predicted.

Biden’s announcement Tuesday means the federal government will ship out about 1.4 million doses a week for the next few weeks.

Johnson & Johnson also announced this week that it is close to releasing final data from its vaccine study.

"If we can get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, start distributing that in March, then I think we’ll be in pretty good shape," said Dr. Toner. "That should be enough vaccine to get us to our goal of having most Americans vaccinated by the summer."

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