ACTING ADMINISTRATOR SLAVITT: Thank you for joining us. Before I turn to Dr. Walensky and Dr. Fauci, I would like to give a short update.
Yesterday, Jeff Zients, our COVID coordinator, announced a further increase in the offer. Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine stockpile will now rise to more than 20 million doses distributed to states, strains, territories and pharmacies. That is twice as much as when we took office, when we delivered every week. This is an opportunity for everyone to increase their vaccinations, even as Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine supply continues to increase. The country needs to deal with this additional stock quickly.
Today, President Biden will instruct Jeff and the Health and Human Services team to procure another 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. This instruction allows the President to plan for the future in the second half of the year. Now is wartime. And since facts are still emerging, it gives us maximum flexibility for our coming needs.
So to review some of our progress in the vaccination program in the first 49 days, we have released the vaccine stock. The president has ordered enough doses of vaccine for every adult in the United States. We have more than doubled the number of vaccines going to the States. We have improved the efficiency of the vaccination process. When we arrived, less than half of the vaccines distributed to the States were administered; today it is about 75 percent.
We have worked with vaccine manufacturers to accelerate delivery by May 31. And, as you’ll hear later, we’ve led a historic partnership between two rival drugmakers to scale production and speed up delivery.
We have increased the number of vaccine estates. The president has deployed 3,500 federal employees, in addition to providing federal funds to members of the National Guard to serve as immunize staff, and many more will follow. We have signed an order allowing our nation’s doctors and nurses to carry out vaccinations. We have mobilised more than 2,000 men and women in the military to support community vaccination sites.
We have also drastically increased the number of vaccination sites. We have supported more than 500 municipal vaccination agencies with federal funds. We have launched a program for direct shipping of vaccines to more than 9,000 local pharmacies. We have opened or are building 20 large-scale, state-run centers that will be able to deliver 70,000 vaccinations a week in some of America’s most deprived areas; Sixteen centres are already in operation. These sites have already received more than 500,000 vaccinations.
We are building a program that sends vaccines directly to more than 1,300 community health centers to reach the most affected communities. We are introducing mobile sites to vaccinate the hardest-to-reach communities.
And that leads to results for the American people, which is most important. More than 91 million Americans have received vaccination: at least one dose, 61 million Americans; fully vaccinated, 32 million Americans.
America leads the world in overall vaccinations. From June to January 20, there was a seven-day average of 890,000 vaccinations per day. And today, we average over 2 million vaccinations per day. On Saturday, we set a new record in a single day: nearly 3 million Americans were vaccinated – more than anywhere else in the world.
When it comes to protecting the most vulnerable – our core role as a nation – 8 percent of people over 65 were vaccinated when we took office. Today, 60 percent are vaccinated. And under the CDC’s new guidelines, vaccinated parents can now visit and hug their grandchildren – and in most cases without wearing a mask.
This is an achievement that any American who goes through the difficult process of waiting for the vaccine can be proud of. And the more people get vaccinated, the more people will benefit from vaccination. Yesterday, Alaska became the first state to make vaccination available to all people over the age of 16.
There are still many steps along the way, but we are making progress.
I am giving the floor to Dr Walensky.
DR. WALENSKY: Thank you, Andy. It is a pleasure for me to be with you again today. Let’s take a look at the current state of the pandemic.
The CDC’s latest data suggests that the latest plateau of cases is beginning to decline again, with a seven-day average of now 56,000 cases per day. The number of new hospital admissions has also fallen further in the last week. On average, 4,900 patients with COVID-19 were admitted per day last week.
While the number of deaths has been around 2,000 per day in recent weeks, the latest seven-day average has now fallen to 1,600 per day. Earlier this week, the number of deaths per day fell below 1,000 for the first time since November. All this is really good news.
And while these trends are moving in the right direction, the number of cases, hospital admissions, and deaths is still too high, and a grim reminder that we need to remain vigilant as we work to step up our vaccination efforts across the country.
We must continue to use proven prevention measures to slow down the spread of COVID-19. They bring us closer to the end of this pandemic. As I discussed Monday, the CDC has released an initial guide to activities that can safely resume fully vaccinated people while limiting the risks to themselves and others.
To share this important information with the medical community and the public, the Journal of the American Medical Association today published a scientific opinion from the CDC. In the commentary, we summarize the CDC’s new recommendations: that fully vaccinated individuals can visit other fully vaccinated individuals in small groups without wearing masks or distancing themselves; that fully vaccinated persons can also visit unvaccinated persons from another household without wearing masks or distancing themselves, as long as no member of the unvaccinated household is at high risk of serious illness caused by COVID-19; and that fully vaccinated persons do not need to be quarantined or tested after contact with a person who has COVID-19, as long as the fully vaccinated person is asymptomatic.
We also reiterate that in other scenarios, including public facilities and travel, people who have been fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks and take safe public health precautions, just like people who have not yet been vaccinated.
In addition, the commentary provides information about the scientific basis for the CDC’s new recommendations, which weigh the risk of infection and spread among the still 90 percent of the American population who are not yet protected by a COVID-19 vaccine.
The commentary also describes the outstanding scientific questions that we are working on to inform future guidelines and allow people to return to their daily activities.
These include, in particular, questions about the risk of transmission of vaccinated persons who transmit the virus to others if they have a vaccine breakthrough and become infected; how long the vaccination protection lasts; and how well the vaccines work against the circulating virus variants.