US administering 1.3m vaccines per day as Covid cases and hospitalisations decline: ‘We’re on track’

The United States has administered an average of 1.3 million Covid-19 vaccine doses per day in the last week, as cases and hospitalisations continue to decline across the country.

“We are on track to meet the president’s goal of 100 million shots in 100 days,” said Jeffrey Zients, Joe Biden’s coronavirus czar, during the White House Covid response team’s press briefing on Wednesday.

The average of 1.3 million vaccine doses administered per day was recorded from 27 January to 2 February, Mr Zients said.

Since taking office two weeks ago, the Biden administration has prioritised distributing and administering vaccines at a faster rate at a time when more Covid-19 variants are spreading through the world.

This initiative included the federal government purchasing an additional 200 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna, which will be delivered by the summer months, and sending a larger supply of vaccines to states. Starting this week, the federal government sent out 10.5 million doses to states compared to the about 8.6 million doses previously sent out each week.

Mr Zients said the administration was now looking at “establishing community vaccination centres” to better reach population groups across the country. Thus far, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has sent $1.7bn to 27 states, tribes, and localities to bolster these community vaccination centres, as well as provide funding for transporting and storing Covid-19 equipment for vaccines and other safety measures. 

The increased number of people receiving a vaccine doses each day comes as Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations are in a “consistent downward trajectory,” said Dr Rochelle Walensky, the director for the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during the press briefing.

Covid-19 cases, which hit a peak on 8 January, have declined 13.4 per cent to now average about 144,000 cases per day between 26 January and 1 February.

“Cases are now back to the level we were before Thanksgiving,” Dr Walensky said.

Hospitalisations have also declined since reaching their peak on 6 January by about 4.1 per cent.

Deaths from the novel virus have continued to increase despite the recent decline in case numbers and hospitalisations, but Dr Walensky remained optimistic that a decline was coming.

“The recent decline in hospitalisations gives us hope that the number of deaths should start to decrease in the coming weeks,” she said.

However, cases were still “extraordinarily high”, which was why health officials were calling on Americans to follow Covid-19 guidelines for the weeks to come, especially with the Super Bowl on Sunday. Dr Walensky recommended for people to only gather virtually or with their immediate family for the sporting event.

“Not wearing masks and participating in in-person social gatherings have contributed to the variants spread. We must take prevention intervention seriously,” she said. “Now is not the time to let our guard down.”

More than 447,000 Americans have died from Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University.