As the coronavirus tears across much of Texas, Dr. Esmaeil Porsa is grappling with one of the most formidable challenges he has faced: The Houston hospital system he operates is running out of vaccines. Porsa, the CEO of Harris Health System, which treats thousands of mostly uninsured patients, warned Friday that its entire vaccine supply could be depleted by midday Saturday. The problem is not one of capability — the vaccination centers he oversees have easily been administering as many as 2,000 vaccines a day — but of availability. “All of a sudden the distribution of vaccines stopped,” Porsa said. “It’s perplexing and frustrating because I keep hearing that there are high percentages of vaccines that have been distributed but not administered.” Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times In the midst of one of the deadliest phases of the pandemic in the United States, health officials in Texas and around the country are growing desperate, unable to get clear answers as to why the long-anticipated vaccines are suddenly in short supply. Inoculation sites are canceling thousands of appointments in one state after another as the nation’s vaccines roll out through a bewildering patchwork of distribution networks, with local officials uncertain about what supplies they will have in hand. In South Carolina, one hospital in the city of Beaufort had to cancel 6,000 vaccine appointments after it received only 450 of the doses it expected. In Hawaii, a Maui hospital canceled 5,000 first-dose appointments and put 15,000 additional requests for appointments on hold. In San Francisco, the public health department had at one point expected to run out of vaccines this past week because the city’s allocation dropped sharply from a week ago and California officials temporarily had to put thousands of doses on hold after a higher than usual number of possible allergic reactions were reported. In New York state, officials in Erie County have canceled thousands of vaccine appointments in recent days after a sharp decline in allocations from the state. The situation is especially dire in Texas, which is averaging about 20,000 new coronavirus cases a day, fueling concerns over whether officials will be able to curb the spread when they cannot get their hands on the vaccines they desperately need to do so. Health officials trying to piece together why this is happening are puzzled by reports that millions of available doses are going unused. As of Friday morning, nearly 39.9 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines had been distributed to state and local governments, but only about 19.1 million doses had been administered to patients, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pfizer and Moderna have each agreed to provide the United States with 100 million vaccine doses, and the companies are racing to manufacture the vaccines, together releasing between 12 million and 18 million doses a week. At that rate, it is feasible for the new administration to meet President Joe Biden’s pledge to inject 100 million vaccines by his 100th day in office. Public health officials could even potentially ramp up the pace of vaccinations with existing supply. It appears that problems with distributing the already available doses are responsible for many of the acute vaccine shortages now being seen in parts of the country. Factor in the ever-increasing demand as more states make the vaccine widely available to those 65 and older, and officials warn that distribution headaches could persist in the weeks ahead. The Biden administration has pledged to overhaul distribution to the states and even use the Defense Production Act to increase supply, but vaccine experts warn that shortages of the doses will persist in the short term with manufacturing sites already facing capacity constraints. State and local governments, as well as hospital administrators, are fending for themselves. In Houston, Porsa said his staff was scrambling as the supply of vaccines dwindled this past week, squeezing six doses out of vials intended to provide five. In one sign of the confusion around vaccine distribution in Texas, officials in Dallas County scrapped a plan that would have prioritized shots for people living in heavily Black and Latino communities hit hardest by the virus. Texas state officials threatened to slash allocations of the vaccine if the county went ahead with the plan even though data showed that most of the shots administered in Dallas County had been in wealthier neighborhoods. Houston, the fourth-largest city in the country, is now struggling with a similar problem as the hospitals serving some of its poorest residents run out of the vaccine, prompting some public health experts to question why doses are not being made more available to vulnerable communities. “These are our front-line workers who are at the greatest risk of contracting the virus and at the greatest risk of spreading it to others,” said Vivian Ho, a health economist at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine. “We would be able to resolve the pandemic in Harris County quicker if we could get a sufficient number of vaccines,” she added, referring to the county encompassing much of Houston. Adding to the turmoil, just days after Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, a Republican, praised the state’s vaccine rollout at a meeting in Houston where Democratic city and county officials were excluded from participating, the lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, also a Republican, sent a letter Thursday to the state’s Expert Vaccination Allocation Panel urging its members to fix the problems. “Right now, in many cities and counties when an announcement of available vaccinations is made, website sign-up pages crash and phone calls go unanswered,” Patrick said in the letter. “Texans need to have a better understanding of the time it will take for everyone to be vaccinated in order to reduce lines, confusion and frustration.” The sense of chaos afflicting the distribution efforts, not just in Texas but in an array of states, is laying bare how local officials are struggling to fill the void left by the lack, until this week, of a comprehensive response at the federal level. Dr. George Rutherford, a public health researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, said the most obvious problem with vaccine administration in the San Francisco area was clear. “There’s not enough doses, period,” he said. “That’s it. Everything would work fine if you had enough doses.” The public health department in San Francisco and hospitals in the city were “caught by surprise” by the lack of doses, Rutherford said, and by the eligibility expansion to those 65 and older, which likely strained the system. Varying vaccine distribution channels — such as Kaiser Permanente and UC San Francisco — receive the doses on their own, he said, further complicating an already convoluted distribution system. “So it’s a little hard for the city to understand exactly what’s left over, what they need to do, where the holes are to fill,” Rutherford said. Still, new vaccination sites are opening in San Francisco, which Rutherford said would help speed the process along once more doses become available. “There’s this tension between efficiency and equity,” he said. “It’s never easy.” Dr. Grant Colfax, head of the San Francisco Department of Health, said the city was “very close to doses running out” and said a lack of overall coordination has led to distribution problems. “I think what this really is, is a continuation of the fallout of the lack of a coordinated federal response,” he said. “Basically cities and counties were left on our own to deal with this pandemic.” He said local jurisdictions “simply did not have the resources and the capacity” to handle the complicated effort without help. “It has manifested in a very tragic way.” In Austin, Texas, Curt Fisher, a 76-year-old who has served on the boards of several high-tech startups, experienced firsthand the confounding roadblocks to securing a vaccine. He was playing golf with friends several weeks ago when they learned that Austin Public Health had vaccines available. They quickly registered with their cellphones from the golf course and landed appointments in a matter of minutes. The system was deluged, and Fisher, who had waited about 30 minutes to call, missed out. He doggedly checked the website from his home about four or five times a day for more than three weeks. Each attempt bore the same result: no vaccines available within the maximum 100-mile search radius. Then after days of pinning his hopes on his hometown health service, good fortune finally came from more than 150 miles away. He received a text from a Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston, where he was automatically registered because he had seen a doctor about three months earlier, inviting him to come to the hospital for his first dose of the vaccine. He made the roughly three-hour drive Monday, spending about an hour at the hospital with little waiting for his first shot of the vaccine. He is supposed to go back Feb. 8 for the second and final injection. Looking back, Fisher said the success he found in Houston and the hassles he went through in Austin illustrated that some vaccine distribution centers “really have their act together” and others do not. “I don’t think the system that Austin Health had could handle the stress of the high volume, obviously,” he said. But some people have struggled to get vaccine appointments, only to see them canceled because of supply problems. Jeanelle Fernandes, 33, who has sickle cell anemia and lives in Miami, initially felt relieved after setting up a vaccine appointment for Jan. 28. Having it confirmed “was kind of like a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “This has been a really hard journey for me.” But then Baptist Health South Florida tweeted this week that all first-dose vaccine appointments scheduled for Jan. 20 or later would be canceled. “I’m definitely frustrated,” she said. It was not the hospital’s fault, she said; she blamed a government that seemed unprepared to roll out millions of vaccine doses when people urgently needed them. “Now I have to wait,” Fernandes said. “I’m up in the air. I don’t know what’s going to happen.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
Medical students are expected to be an increasingly important part of vaccination efforts as the US faces a surplus of distributed, but unused, shots.
The tally of vaccine doses are for both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines as of 6:00 a.m. ET on Saturday, the agency said. A total of 2,437,670 vaccine doses have been administered in long-term care facilities, the agency said. According to the tally posted on Jan. 22, the agency had administered 19,107,959 doses of the vaccines, and distributed 39,892,400 doses.
An Instagram post claims HIV, cancer and the common cold have been researched longer than COVID-19 but no vaccines have resulted. This is missing context.
When COVID-19 first swarmed the United States, one health insurer called some customers with a question: Do you have enough to eat? Oscar Health wanted to know if people had adequate food for the next couple weeks and how they planned to stay stocked up while hunkering down at home. “We’ve seen time and again, the lack of good and nutritional food causes members to get readmitted" to hospitals, Oscar executive Ananth Lalithakumar said.
A model estimates 168,000 more U.S. COVID-19 deaths before May. Meanwhile, about 5% of Americans have received a vaccine dose. Latest COVID-19 news.
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After he was born, Tully experienced a pandemic and the loss of his great-grandmother. But he - and we - made it through.
A study from the University of Southern California found that white people are the least likely to wear masks consistently when engaging with people outside their household. An expert says it may be because it's 'unusual' for this group to be told what to do.
A warning from AstraZeneca that initial supplies of its Covid vaccinations to Europe will be lower than expected has sparked fresh concern over the rollout of inoculations, forcing some countries to plan for a sharp drop in deliveries.
The number of people with coronavirus in French intensive care units fell by 16 to 2,896 in data released on Saturday, the first decline in two weeks after a period of sharp rises. The number of people in intensive care is a key measure of a health system's ability to cope with the pandemic.
German health authorities put a Berlin hospital under quarantine after 20 patients and staff members tested positive for a more infectious variant of the coronavirus discovered in Britain and spreading fast around the world, officials said on Saturday. The number of people at the Humboldt hospital infected with the more infectious B117 variant was likely to rise further in the coming days, a spokeswoman of public hospital operator Vivantes told Reuters. The quarantine decision means that the Humboldt hospital in the German capital will not admit any new patients.
Seventy-two players are currently confined to their rooms in Melbourne ahead of the Feb. 8-21 Grand Slam after positive cases were discovered on three flights ferrying them to Australia. Sousa said he tested positive for COVID-19 before his departure but has since returned a negative test and is asymptomatic. "Even though I already tested negative and have no symptoms, due to the strict rules of the Australian government, I won't be able to travel," Sousa wrote on Instagram on Saturday.
Italy reported 488 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday, up from 472 the day before, while the daily tally of new infections fell further to 13,331 from 13,633. Italy has now registered 85,162 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak came to light last February, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the sixth-highest in the world. The total number of intensive care patients was little changed at 2,386, against 2,390.
Intermittent fasting is a system of eating that determines windows of time when people eat, which in turn leads to eating fewer calories.
Chicago teachers will vote on Saturday on a resolution to not return to classrooms next week, claiming the third largest school system in the United States lacks an adequate plan to safely re-open schools amid the pandemic. The results of the vote, expected on Sunday, could jeopardize Chicago Public Schools' phased reopening as the district plans to offer in-person instruction for 70,000 elementary and middle school students. On Friday, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Janice Jackson said if those educators do not show up for work, it would constitute an illegal strike by the Chicago Teachers Union.
Passengers on public transport systems should avoid talking to one another or on the phone in order to minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus, the French National Academy of Medecine said. Academy member Patrick Berche said on BFM TV on Saturday that if there were only three people in a subway car there was no problem, but if you were only two centimetres away from the next person it made sense not to converse or talk on the phone. The academy - which was founded in 1820 - criticised a recent government recommendation to wear only surgical masks in public, rather than masks made of fabric.
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France's top health advisory body on Saturday recommended doubling the time between people being given the first and second COVID-19 vaccinations to six weeks from three in order to increase the number getting inoculated. The gap between the first and second injection in France is currently three weeks for people in retirement homes, who take priority, and four weeks for others such as health workers. The Haute Autorite de Sante (HAS) said spacing out the two required vaccinations of the Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna vaccines would allow the treatment of at least 700,000 more people in the first month.
A major British doctors' group says the U.K. government should “urgently review” its decision to give people a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine up to 12 weeks after the first, rather than the shorter gap recommended by the manufacturer and the World Health Organization. The U.K., which has Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak, adopted the policy in order to give as many people as possible a first dose of vaccine quickly. AstraZeneca has said it believes a first dose of its vaccine offers protection after 12 weeks, but Pfizer says it has not tested the efficacy of its jab after such a long gap.
China on Saturday reported more new cases of COVID-19 and the financial hub of Shanghai imposed new restrictions, as the country marked the anniversary of the world's first coronavirus lockdown in Wuhan city, where the disease emerged in late 2019. The National Health Commission said 107 new COVID-19 cases had been identified in the mainland on Saturday, up from 103 cases the day before. The northeastern province of Heilongjiang recorded 56 new cases and neighbouring Jilin province had 13.
Sri Lanka’s health minister, who has faced criticism for consuming and endorsing a herbal syrup made by a sorcerer, has tested positive for COVID-19. A Health Ministry official on Saturday confirmed that Pavithra Wanniarachchi became the highest-ranking official to be infected with the virus. Thousands of people gathered in long queues in December in the town of Kegalle, northeast of the capital Colombo, to obtain the syrup, just days after Wanniarachchi and several other government officials publicly consumed it.
“By encouraging this act of terror on our capital, Trump’s legacy is destroyed.”
“Both backers and critics of Trump agreed that he remade the federal judiciary — a change that will impact America for decades.”
“He was largely responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans who did not need to die.”
“I do know what the future should hold for this country. That is to say, a policy of Trumpism without Trump.”
“It will be decades before the consequences of his tenure are fully known.”