WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – Today marks the deadline for states to request doses of the first coronavirus vaccine.
The U.S. government should start distributing millions of shots across the country within a week or two, but even those first in line will still have to wait.
“There are going to be people who deserve it and need it who just aren’t gonna have it right away,” said Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama’s state health officer.
The federal government will divide its first shipment of vaccine doses among federal agencies and states based on population. Harris said his state considers about 360,000 residents top priority, including healthcare workers, and nursing home residents and employees, but he expects to receive about 41,000 doses.
“We initially thought we’d be getting ten times that much,” he said.
Harris stressed that’s only for the first shot. The Pfizer vaccine requires a second dose three weeks later.
“There’s still levels of risk that we’re trying to take into account as we decide who goes first,” he said.
These are decisions every state will have to make, including Alabama’s neighbor, Tennessee. State health officials expect about 56,000 doses but consider 450,000 people top priority.
“It certainly makes sense to me that frontline workers would be the first,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-TN.
Blackburn said the vaccine is also vital to Americans further down the line, like teachers.
“You’ve got children that need to get back to school,” she said.
Sen. Doug Jones, D-AL, worries the pandemic will continue to get worse before it gets better.
“Our COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are at record highs, record highs in Alabama and across the country,” Jones said.
Lawmakers and health officials hope these numbers quickly change as Moderna’s vaccine rolls out soon after the Pfizer one, and other companies seek approval.