Vaccinations move to nursing homes as pandemic rages in California

President-elect Joe Biden became one of them, he received his shot on camera in an effort to boost confidence in its safety

The US government and two of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains on Monday began inoculating nursing home residents against COVID-19, among the first Americans besides healthcare workers to get the vaccine.

The vaccinations, carried out under a programme led by Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc and CVS Health Corp, are the latest effort to rein in a pandemic that has killed more than 317,000 Americans and strained healthcare systems.

California, an epicenter in the latest surge in infections, had no more intensive care unit beds available in the heavily populated Los Angeles area or in the state’s San Joaquin Valley agricultural hub, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday.

Newsom said California had so far not seen any cases of the highly infectious new strain of the virus that has emerged in Britain, prompting dozens of countries to close their borders to the UK.

The US Food and Drug Administration has authorised emergency use of two COVID-19 vaccines, one developed by Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE and the second from Moderna.

Some 2.9 million shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were distributed last week, mostly to healthcare workers, with more than 500,000 people inoculated as of Sunday afternoon. The first Moderna injections were administered on Monday.

About 7.9 million doses of the two shots are being distributed nationwide this week, including on Christmas Day if necessary, said US Army General Gustave Perna, who oversees vaccine distribution through the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed program.

More than 1,300 long-term care facilities were expected to begin vaccinations on Monday, Perna told a news conference.

About 50 million people in the United States will have had the first of two shots needed for immunisation by the end of January, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.

President-elect Joe Biden became one of them on Monday, at a hospital in Newark, Delaware. He received his shot on camera in an effort to boost confidence in its safety. Biden’s age, 78, places him in a high-risk category for the highly contagious respiratory disease.

With supplies limited, many states have put healthcare workers and nursing home residents first in line for vaccinations, in keeping with recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Older people in nursing homes have accounted for a disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths.

Alex AzarCVS HealthJoe BidenOperation Warp Speed programUS Army General Gustave PernaUS COVID-19 deathsWalgreens Boots Alliance
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