The US 'could have every nursing home patient vaccinated' by Christmas, Azar says

  • Alex Azar, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said during an interview Sunday that the Trump administration "could have every nursing home patient vaccinated in the United States by Christmas."
  • The first batches of the vaccine, approved by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use on Friday, left a Pfizer facility in Magician earlier Sunday.
  • FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn on Sunday said he was "hopeful" the first Americans could receive the vaccine on Monday.
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Alex Azar, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, on Sunday said that the Trump administration is aiming to vaccinate residents in nursing homes by Christmas. 

"It can start really any day," Azar said of the nursing home vaccinations during an appearance on CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "This is according to the governors telling us to ship to them, we could have every nursing home patient vaccinated in the United States by Christmas."

While the vaccine is likely to begin rolling out to people in the US this week, experts have said it will be months before it is available to all Americans due to a limited supply. The specifics of how to distribute the vaccine is left up to state governments, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released recommendations that prioritize nursing home residents and frontline healthcare workers. 

"It's a really remarkable, remarkable prospect for all of us who have loved ones in nursing homes that we may approach Christmas with that level of comfort," he said, adding that "almost 100%" of all nursing homes in the US have signed on to the US government's plan to distribute the vaccines.

 

Also Sunday, Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said people in the US could be vaccinated as soon as tomorrow following the FDA's Friday approval emergency use authorization approval for Pfizer's two-shot vaccine. Earlier Sunday, trucks carrying the vaccine were seen leaving a Pfizer facility in Michigan, headed to a UPS facility in Kentucky before they are shipped across the US.

Last week, Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, warned that the vaccine would not end the current surge of COVID-19 cases and said that other measures, like mask-wearing and proper personal hygiene, needed to be maintained. 

Nursing homes, which house some of the people most vulnerable to the most serious cases of COVID-19, have been some of the hardest-hit institutions in the US. According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 100,000 nursing home residents and staff have died from the virus in the US —  roughly a third of the total fatalities from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in the US.

Also last week, HHS announced it would distribute incentive payments totaling $523 million among more than 9,000 nursing homes across the US, marking the first time the federal government provided funds to institutions that maintained precautions to stem the spread of COVID-19. 

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