ACROSS AMERICA — Coronavirus vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna have been distributed to hospitals across the country, although medical centers in rural America have largely been left out of the process thus far, The Washington Post and others have reported.
But not at MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena, the most isolated health care center in Michigan's northeastern corner. That's in large part due to Richard Bates, a doctor who has been making the three-hour drive from MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland to bring the Pfizer doses to health care workers there.
Bates travels on mostly two-lane highways, according to The Washington Post, to get from Midland to Alpena. During his first trip, he packed a blue cooler with 130 doses of the vaccine, the Post reported.
Bates told the Post he compares his task to delivering a baby, something he's done many times in his career.
“The only thing I can liken this to, really, is that feeling,” he said. “Once the baby is in your hands, you don't think about the pain of labor anymore … all the hopes and dreams are there.”
Daniel L. Maxwell, chair of the Alpena hospital’s department of medicine, says what Bates is doing helps spread a vital message.
“We’re not getting it six months after Detroit or New York or San Francisco; we’re getting it at the same time,” Maxwell said. “To me and to our community, that’s a really important message.”
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is among the latest to receive the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Harris received the shot Tuesday at the United Medical Center in Washington, D.C., according to The New York Times and others.
She urged other Americans to get the vaccine as well.
“Literally, this is about saving lives,” she said, according to the NYT.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a Senate vote on increasing the planned one-time stimulus payments to Americans from $600 to $2,000, Axios and others have reported. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had proposed voting on the bill, which the House overwhelmingly approved Monday including with some Republicans support.
After Monday's House vote, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer had called on McConnell to make sure the Senate helps "meet the needs of American workers and families who are crying out for help.”
The $600 stimulus payments are part of a massive relief measure President Donald Trump signed Sunday night. The measure also will continue benefits for people in two programs: the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provided benefits to 7.3 million workers; and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which offered aid to another 4.6 million. Both programs had expired the day after Christmas.
Initially, it appeared Trump would refuse to sign the coronavirus economic relief bill. Trump has said the bill should have included one-time payments of $2,000 to all Americans instead of $600.
Estimates show about 12 million people would have been left with little or no financial support had Trump not finally signed the economic relief bill, which passed easily in both the House and the Senate by wide margins a week earlier.
Meanwhile, more and more Americans say they are eager to receive one of two newly approved vaccines.
In polls by Gallup, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Pew Research Center, the portion of people saying they are now likely or certain to take the vaccine has grown from about 50 percent this summer to more than 60 percent, and up in one poll 73 percent — a figure that approaches what some public health experts say would be sufficient for herd immunity.
As the nation's epicenter for the virus has shifted west to California, which has reported more than 2 million cases on its own, nursing home residents in the state will soon receive vaccinations.
Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a plan to partner with pharmacies beginning Monday to vaccinate residents and staff at nursing homes and other congregate living facilities.
Newsom also said teachers, older residents and some other critical workers could begin to get vaccines as early as next month. The state expects to have received nearly 1.8 million vaccine doses by the end of the week, and much of the Golden State has started to see a plateau in new hospital admissions, "with the major exception" of Southern California.
With the vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna already in use, another one could be on the way in the coming months.
Novavax, a Maryland-based biotech, has begun the final phase of its vaccine clinical trials in the United States and Mexico, according to a New York Times report. The little-known company has never before brought a vaccine to market, but it received $1.6 billion from the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed to help develop one for the coronavirus.
This is the fifth vaccine trial to reach Phase 3 in the United States, CNN reported.
At least 1,530 deaths and 166,897 new cases had been reported in the United States on Monday, according to a Washington Post database. The Post's reporting shows over the past week new daily cases have fallen by 16.1 percent, new daily deaths have fallen 16.5 percent and new coronavirus-related hospitalizations rose by 4 percent.
As of Tuesday, 46 states and Puerto Rico remained above the positive testing rate recommended by the World Health Organization to safely reopen. To safely reopen, the WHO recommends states remain at 5 percent or lower for at least 14 days.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the United States had reported more than 19.4 million cases and more than 336,300 deaths from COVID-19-related illnesses, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.