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US: Enough Vaccines for Boosters, Kids 09/26 10:39

   With more than 40 million doses of coronavirus vaccines available, U.S. 
health authorities said they're confident there will be enough for both 
qualified older Americans seeking booster shots and the young children for whom 
initial vaccines are expected to be approved in the not-too-distant future.

   MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- With more than 40 million doses of coronavirus 
vaccines available, U.S. health authorities said they're confident there will 
be enough for both qualified older Americans seeking booster shots and the 
young children for whom initial vaccines are expected to be approved in the 
not-too-distant future.

   The spike in demand -- expected following last week's federal recommendation 
on booster shots -- would be the first significant jump in months. More than 70 
million Americans remain unvaccinated despite the enticement of lottery prizes, 
free food or gifts and pleas from exhausted health care workers as the average 
number of deaths per day climbed to more than 1,900 in recent weeks.

   Federal and state health authorities said current supply and steady 
production of more doses can easily accommodate those seeking boosters or 
initial vaccination, avoiding a repeat of the frustratingly slow rollout of 
COVID-19 vaccines across the country early this year.

   "I hope that we have the level of interest in the booster ... that we need 
more vaccines," Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday. "That's simply not 
where we are today. We have plenty of vaccines."

   Robust supply in the U.S enabled President Joe Biden this week to promise an 
additional 500 million of Pfizer's COVID-19 shots to share with the world, 
doubling the United States' global contribution. Aid groups and health 
organizations have pushed the U.S. and other countries to improve vaccine 
access in countries where even the most vulnerable people haven't had a shot.

   Among the challenges states face is not ordering too many doses and letting 
them go to waste. Several states with low vaccination rates, including Idaho 
and Kansas, have reported throwing away thousands of expired doses or are 
struggling to use vaccines nearing expiration this fall.

   While most vaccines can stay on the shelf unopened for months, once a vial 
is opened the clock starts ticking. Vaccines are only usable for six to 12 
hours, depending on the manufacturer, according to the U.S. Food and Drug 
Administration.

   Moderna vaccines come in vials containing 11 to 15 doses. Pfizer vials 
contain up to six doses and Johnson & Johnson vials five doses.

   "We are going to see more doses that go unused over time," said Wisconsin's 
health secretary, Karen Timberlake. "They come in multidose files. They don't 
come in nice, tidy individual single-serving packages."

   State health officials said they have tried to request only what health care 
providers and pharmacies expect to need from the federal supply. Those numbers 
have dwindled since the vaccines became widely available in early spring.

   But U.S. officials -- holding out hope that some of the unvaccinated will 
change their minds -- are trying to keep enough vaccines in stock so all 
Americans can get them.

   That balancing act is tricky and can lead to consternation around the globe 
as the U.S. sits on unused vaccines while many countries in places such as 
Africa can't get enough vaccines.

   "Somebody sitting in a country with few resources to access vaccines, seeing 
people in the U.S. able to walk into a pharmacy and get that vaccine and 
choosing not to, I'm sure that's causing heartache," said Jen Kates, senior 
vice president and director of global health and HIV policy for the Kaiser 
Family Foundation.

   Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and 
Territorial Health Officials, which represents the public health agencies of 
all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, said 
officials anticipate that on-hand doses of COVID-19 vaccines and manufacturers' 
ability to supply more will meet needs across the country.

   "I think states have tried to plan as if everybody's going to be offered a 
booster," he said, suggesting they will be overprepared for the more narrow 
recommendations issued by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and 
Prevention.

   California, for example, estimated earlier this month that it would need to 
administer an extra 63 million doses by the end of 2022 -- if initial shots for 
children under 12 were approved and boosters were open to everyone.

   U.S. health officials late Thursday endorsed booster shots of the Pfizer 
vaccine for all Americans 65 and older -- along with tens of millions of 
younger people who are at higher risk from the coronavirus because of health 
conditions or their jobs.

   California, with nearly 40 million residents, has the lowest transmission 
rate of any state and nearly 70% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated. 
That leaves nearly 12 million people not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

   Dr. Mark Ghaly, California's health secretary, said the state will rely 
largely on pharmacies and primary care providers to give boosters to seniors 
while some large counties and health care groups will use mass vaccination 
sites.

   In Pennsylvania, more than 67% of residents older than 18 are fully 
vaccinated. Alison Beam, acting secretary of health, said health authorities 
now have "two missions": Continuing to persuade people to get vaccinated and 
serving those eager to receive a booster or initial shots.

   "Pennsylvania is going to be prepared," Beam said. "And we're going to have 
the right level of vaccine and vaccinators to be able to meet that demand."

 
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