File: A dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine. FRANCOIS LO PRESTI / AFP
WASHINGTON - As part of efforts to expand access to COVID vaccines, the federal government will allow makers to release all their available doses instead of reserving booster shots, the US health secretary said Tuesday.
Alex Azar told ABC News that the manufacture of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines was now "predictable enough that second doses are available for people from ongoing production."
This marks a break from the previous plan in which second doses were held back for those people who had received their first, to ensure that there is no delay.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require boosters after three and four weeks, respectively.
President-elect Joe Biden's team had already announced that they would adopt this approach.
It comes as US rollout of the COVID vaccines has been off to a shaky start.
Of the 25.4 million first doses distributed to states so far, just 8.9 million had been injected into arms or 35 percent.
"There hasn't been a focus on the last mile," Harvard health policy researcher Dr Thomas Tsai told AFP.
"There's been a focus on the vaccine and we've been able to conduct trials and produce a vaccine within a year yet that's been the entire focus of the federal response."
Azar said the federal government would now be recommending that states begin to widen the criteria for who gets vaccinated, starting with people over 65 without health conditions and people under 65 with health conditions.
He added the rollout so far had been "over hospitalized" and needed to shift to pharmacies, local health centers, and mass vaccination sites.