COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution: Where We Are Now

By: Shoshanah Marcus  |  February 8, 2021

By Shoshanah Marcus, News Editor

After months of creating and testing vaccines, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines finally have FDA approval.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed to people across the globe since December 14, 2020. Both vaccines require two doses; however, the second dose is administered three to four weeks after the first dose depending on which vaccine was administered.

When it comes to determining who should receive the vaccine, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) makes suggested priority vaccination lists, and then each state makes its own plan based on these recommendations. 

The CDC claims that supplies of the vaccine will be limited at first, which is why they have gathered an Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to make recommendations as to who should receive the vaccine first. As of now, the CDC recommends that the first phase be divided into three subphases. According to the CDC, “initial supplies of COVID-19 vaccine be allocated to healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents,” which is referred to as Phase 1a. On December 22, 2020, the CDC recommended that Phase 1b, consisting of frontline essential workers and people aged 75 years and older, and Phase 1c, consisting  of people aged 65-74 years old, people aged 16-64 years with underlying medical conditions, and other essential workers, be distributed. The CDC stated on their website that “[a]s vaccine availability increases, vaccination recommendations will expand to include more groups” and included that “[t]he goal is for everyone to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as large enough quantities of vaccine are available.” 

According to USA Today, “about 7.2% of people in the US have received at least one COVID-19 shot. About 1.6% of people have received both doses of the vaccine. About 40.8% of the shots distributed haven’t been used yet.” These statistics, along with a map that depicts how many people have been vaccinated with the first and second dose in each state in the United States, are consistently being updated on a regular basis on their website. The CDC has compiled a similar map depicting the total doses administered, total doses distributed, people receiving one or more doses, and people receiving two doses as reported to the CDC by state per 100,000 people and by total count. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) published a series of articles on the development of the COVID-19 vaccine with the latest article addressing how to fairly distribute the vaccine. The WHO established the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility in collaboration with the ACT-Accelerator vaccine partners the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The COVAX Facility’s goal is to “[bring] nations together, regardless of their income level, to ensure the procurement and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines” and aim to accomplish this through two phases. During the first phase of distribution of the vaccine, the vaccine will be given to participating countries until 20% of the population is vaccinated. Frontline workers in the healthcare and social fields will be given priority during this phase. If vaccine supplies continue to be limited in the second phase, participating countries will receive vaccine doses based on an assessment of their risk. Additionally, the COVAX Facility promises that there will be some doses allocated as a “humanitarian buffer … to serve as a provider of last resort for if/when national, government-led processes fail to reach certain populations.”

Overall, large organizations such as the CDC and WHO may have many recommendations for how to effectively and fairly distribute the vaccine, but each state and country will need to determine for themselves how to best allocate their resources.