U.S. releases millions of COVID-19 doses and urges states to include more people

FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at Queens Police Academy in the Queens borough of New York, U.S., January 11, 2021. Jeenah Moon/Pool via REUTERS

(Reuters) – The Trump administration said on Tuesday it is releasing millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses it had been holding back for second shots and urged states to offer them to all Americans over age 65 or with chronic health conditions.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said during a news briefing that the U.S. pace of inoculations has risen to 700,000 shots per day and is expected to rise to 1 million per day within a week to 10 days.

Most states prioritized health-care workers and nursing home staff and residents for their first deliveries of the COVID-19 vaccines which began last month, following recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The process of inoculating those groups has been slow due partly to the complexity of giving them the vaccines.

CDC head Dr. Robert Redfield said on Tuesday that he “strongly recommends” that vaccines be made available to people over 65 and those younger than 65 who have other chronic health conditions.

The CDC last week made clear that states can move on to the next priority group – people older than 75 and essential workers – without finishing the first round of inoculations, but fewer than 20 states have done so. A handful of states including Texas, Florida and Georgia have started giving shots to people over 65.

(Reporting by Vishwadha Chander and Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru and Rebecca Spalding, Carl O’Donnell and Caroline Humer in New York; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Alison Williams and Jonathan Oatis)

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