The White House on Wednesday announced that it will open more “community vaccination centres” in schools, universities and stadiums in several hard-hit states, in an effort to ramp up their vaccination campaign.
“These centres are helping to provide new, more efficient places for people to get vaccinated,” White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said during a virtual news conference.
He said the United States federal government is going to partner with the state of California to set up two coronavirus vaccination sites to serve two of the hardest-hit communities in the state.
Zients said the sites will be located at the Oakland Coliseum and at California State University, Los Angeles, in East Oakland and East Los Angeles areas. The facilities will be staffed primarily by officials from the Department of Defense, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Zients called those sites “just the beginning” of the Biden administration’s push to speed the pace of vaccinations, particularly in areas bearing the brunt of illnesses and death.
He said the Biden administration is already on track to meet the goal of administering 100 million shots in the 100 days adding that based on the seven-day average of daily dose administration, 1.3 million doses went into people’s arms from January 27 – February 2.
Rachel Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said new COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations appear to be on a downward trajectory but warned that new variants of the virus popping up across the country could threaten that positive momentum.
Although teachers are prioritised as “essential workers” under the CDC’s vaccination plans, many have yet to receive doses as the nation continues to face a supply shortage of the vaccine.
And as some teachers’ unions are baulking at resuming in-person instruction before teachers are vaccinated, Walensky said schools can safely reopen even if teachers are not yet inoculated.
“Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools,” she said.
Walensky cited CDC data showing that social distancing and wearing a mask significantly reduce the spread of the virus in school settings.
Biden has pledged to ensure nearly all elementary schools will reopen for in-person instruction in the first 100 days of his administration.
“It’s time for Joe Biden to stand up and say ‘the kids are the most important things,’” said Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and former presidential candidate, during an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday.
“And the teachers are just going to have to suck it up and stand up and provide an education. Otherwise, these kids have no chance whatsoever. It is a disaster what’s happening to them,” he said.
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said Americans should continue to follow social distancing guidelines and added that there is no harm if people want to “double mask” for added protection.
Though the US has currently authorised only the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Fauci lauded international efforts to develop vaccine candidates such as Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinovac.
He reminded that the Biden administration had reversed Donald Trump’s effort to withdraw from the World Health Organization, where the US is the largest donor, and move that was seen as a broader US retreat from multilateral organisations.
“We in the United States … are back on the global scene,” he said adding that the US will join the COVAX vaccine project that aims to deliver coronavirus vaccines to poor countries.
“I want to remind people that this is a global effort and the more we get the virus controlled globally and we will be a part of that process … the better off we will be,” Fauci said.