UPDATED 9:15 AM PT – Sunday, February 7, 2021
The U.S. is ramping up COVID-19 vaccination efforts across the country in an effort to build up immunity in Americans. This week, the Pentagon announced it is deploying over 1,100 active-duty troops to assist with efforts, a number expected to rise in the coming weeks.
The department said the service members will be separated into five teams, each will include doctors, nurses and clinical staff.
“The military’s critical role in supporting sites will help vaccinate thousands of people per day and ensure that every American who wants a vaccine will receive one,” White House senior advisor for COVID response Andy Slavitt said.
The troops are expected to be in place by February 15, with a goal of administering over 450,000 vaccinations a day.
Nearly seven million Americans have already received their full two dose vaccine from Moderna or Pfizer, translating to roughly only two percent of the U.S. population. In order to reach herd immunity, 70 to 85 percent of Americans would need to be vaccinated.
Texas is expected to receive over 400,000 more doses of the vaccine next week, though state officials are calling for at least one million doses per-week in order to keep up with demand.
The Texas Health Department is continuing to prioritize people 65 and older as they remain in the high risk category. However, the Lone Star State is currently working through challenges of using all their doses before they expire.
“Right now we’ve got a situation that’s not working very well, it’s a situation filled with lots of growing pains,” University of Texas Professor Don Kettl said. “It’s a matter of making sure that the vaccine that we have gets into peoples’ arms, and right now there are too many doses that are sitting around, that aren’t at this point getting into peoples’ arms fast enough.”
In New York, about 70 percent of front line health workers have been vaccinated. With this news, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) said vaccinations will become available to people with underlying health conditions on February 15, regardless of their age.
Those with comorbidities are at greater risk of death from COVID.
New Yorkers who have one of these comorbidities or underlying conditions will be eligible for the vaccine beginning February 15.
Full list: pic.twitter.com/igoJalwkWK
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) February 5, 2021
Some small businesses are hoping they could be next in line as more vaccines become available.
“On the one hand, it would have been nice to, to have been considered earlier forward. But on the other hand, I recognize the reality that you want to protect the most vulnerable first,” Jake Dell, Katz’s Delicatessen owner said. “I think that the announcement from Gov. Cuomo acknowledges some of what we’ve been dealing with and all along.”
The troops sent out by the Pentagon will first make their way to California. Service members will begin to staff more sites across the country in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, more vaccines could be on the way to Americans as Johnson and Johnson recently announced it is seeking emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for its own vaccine candidate.
The decision could help get more critical doses to states as the U.S. continues to downsize the number of cases.