Vaccine availability and vaccination rate are key to reopening safely

A promising path towards normalcy

The Biden administration has announced exciting news that, per an agreement between Merck and Johnson & Johnson, the U.S. will have enough vaccines to vaccinate all adults by May. So far, about 20.7% of all Americans over the age of 18 have received at least one dose of the available vaccines and 10.6% have received two doses. There are about 254 million adults in the U.S., which means that about 227 million more adults need vaccinations. Across the U.S., an average of 2.01 million doses of vaccines are administered to all eligible people daily. With the newly approved single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine now joining the ranks of Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, complete vaccination will be slightly quicker. Johnson and Johnson is expected to deliver 100 million vaccines to the U.S. during the first half of 2021.

How long will it take to vaccinate all adults in American?
Of the 227 million adults who need to be vaccinated, let’s assume that 100 million will receive the single-dose J&J vaccine and the remaining 127 million will receive a two-dose vaccine. With a rate of 2.01 million doses a day, it would take about 176 days to vaccinate all American adults (The New York Times has a fantastic, regularly updated analysis of vaccinations). At the time of writing, this would suggest that all American adults would be vaccinated by the last week of August. If we did not have the single-dose J&J vaccine, it would take about 225 days to vaccinate, or until mid-October. So far, Fall is looking promising. Thank you, J&J!

Vaccine supply does not appear to limit vaccination rate on a national level.
Since the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have become available, states have administered about 77% of the total vaccines they have in stock. In other words, states have a small surplus of vaccines. There is, therefore, room to improve state-wide vaccination program efficiency. With time, we might see state and local health departments increasing their vaccination rate. Since vaccines have become available, states have made critical innovations in public health infrastructure and logistics in order to administer doses to people. States set up vaccination centers in parking lots and stadiums, developed websites for enrollment, and found equipment and space to store vaccines safely prior to their use. National efforts have been underway to help local health departments. Overall, it has been an ongoing effort and learning process. With time, vaccination rate may improve as states and healthcare providers practice administering vaccinations under these unprecedented conditions, expand vaccination sites, and hire more personnel. But the question is, how many more vaccinations can states realistically administer? With more vaccines available to states, will the local health departments have the infrastructure and equipment to safely store the increased amount of vaccines? Despite these unknowns, we look ahead to a promising future. Having more vaccines available is an incredible feat, and it is a step towards our country’s safe reopening.

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Zhannetta Gugel

Scientist with interests in ecology, public health, and neuroscience. Former biotech patent analyst. PhD in neurobiology @ Caltech.