Wednesday, March 10, 2021 | Kaiser Health News

Alaska Is First State To Expand Vaccinations To All Approved Ages

Anyone 16 and older — the age cutoff for FDA approval of the vaccine — can now get a shot in Alaska. Gov. Mike Dunleavy called the stage a “game changer.”

Anchorage Daily News:
All Alaskans Age 16 And Older Now Eligible For COVID-19 Vaccine

Alaska on Tuesday broadened an already long list of people eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to include anyone 16 and older who lives or works in the state. The change makes Alaska the first U.S. state to remove eligibility requirements for the COVID-19 vaccine, state officials said Tuesday. Officials announced the milestone almost a year after Alaska marked its first case of the virus that was tied to the deaths of more than 300 Alaskans, left others with lasting health complications and wreaked havoc on the economy statewide. (Krakow, 3/9)

Alaska Is First State To Make Covid Vaccines Available To Nearly All

Alaska on Tuesday became the first state to make Covid vaccines available to anyone 16 and older who works or lives in the state, effective immediately. “This historic step is yet another nationwide first for Alaska,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy said in a statement, adding he “couldn’t be prouder” of Alaska’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. (Ng, 3/9)

Alaska Opens Vaccines To Everyone Over 16

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy called the vaccination expansion a “game changer.” He said eligibility requirements for the vaccinations are dropped, effective immediately. “A healthy community means a healthy economy,” Dunleavy said. “With widespread vaccinations available to all Alaskans who live or work here, we will no doubt see our economy grow and our businesses thrive.” (Diaz, 3/10)

The New York Times:
Alaska Becomes First State To Open Vaccine Access To Everyone 16 And Older 

Alaska has fully vaccinated 16 percent of its population, the highest rate in the country, according to a New York Times database. Adam Crum, the commissioner of the state health department, said, “If Alaskans had any questions about vaccine eligibility and criteria, I hope today’s announcement clears it up for you.” He added, “Simply put, you are eligible to get the vaccine.” (Pietsch and Gold, 3/9)

Covid Vaccine Eligibility Expands To Include Even More Americans

Some states like New York and Florida are now targeting younger age groups and others are including a broader range of preconditions and employment roles in their pandemic vaccine priority lists. But a new poll suggests 25% of people will still refuse.

New York Lowers Age For Covid-19 Vaccine Eligibility To 60 Years Old

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said he would lower the age for Covid-19 vaccine eligibility to 60 years old from 65 on March 10, as states qualify more groups in response to increasing supply from the federal government. Essential in-person workers from government agencies and nonprofits will be able to get the shots starting March 17. Public-facing building-service workers also will be eligible, Cuomo said Tuesday while visiting a vaccine site at the New York State Fair in Syracuse. This includes sanitation, motor-vehicles and election workers, county clerks, government inspectors and caseworkers. (Clukey and Young, 3/9)

Tennessee: Some Inmates Now Qualify For COVID-19 Vaccine

After initially deeming that inoculating prisoners could be a “PR nightmare,” Tennessee officials on Tuesday said some inmates were receiving a COVID-19 vaccine — but only those who qualify as part of other groups the state has prioritized. The Department of Correction has ordered 2,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and 980 doses of the Moderna vaccine to be distributed to inmates who are 65 and older or have health conditions that put them in groups already given priority status by the state, department spokesperson Dorinda Carter said in an email. (Kruesi, 3/9)

The Washington Post:
People Who Qualify For The Covid Vaccine Because Their BMI Says They’re Obese Have Mixed Feelings About Getting An Early Spot In Line 

In late February, Claire DiYenno opened her inbox to discover the golden ticket: An email from her doctor’s office with a subject line telling her that she was now eligible to get the coronavirus vaccine. It was welcome news, but unexpected. “I was trying to think of all the different things that maybe I could have been eligible for, because I have migraines. I’ve had recent surgery,” says DiYenno, who lives in Upstate New York. Then she opened the email and found out the real reason: Her body mass index, or BMI, was considered to be in the “obese” category. (Judkis, 3/9)

The New York Times:
How America’s Vaccine System Makes People With Health Problems Fight For A Place In Line 

As states have begun vaccinating Americans with medical conditions that may raise their risk for a severe case of Covid-19, they are setting widely varying rules about which conditions to prioritize. The morass of guidelines has set off a free-for-all among people with underlying health problems like cancer or Type 2 diabetes to persuade state health and political officials to add particular conditions to an evolving vaccine priority list. (Harmon and Ivory, 3/9)

In related news —

The New York Times:
Hunting for a Leftover Vaccine? This Site Will Match You With a Clinic.

In the hustle to score an elusive vaccine appointment, the leftover dose has become the stuff of pandemic lore. Extra shots — which must be used within hours once taken out of cold storage — have been doled out to drugstore customers buying midnight snacks, people who are friends with nurses and those who show up at closing time at certain grocery stores and pharmacies. At some larger vaccination sites, the race to use every dose sets off a flurry of end-of-the-day phone calls. (Thomas, 3/9)

Volunteers Are Key At Vaccine Sites. It Pays Off With A Shot

When Seattle’s largest health care system got a mandate from Washington state to create a mass COVID-19 vaccination site, organizers knew that gathering enough volunteers would be almost as crucial as the vaccine itself. “We could not do this without volunteers,” said Renee Rassilyer-Bomers, chief quality officer for Swedish Health Services and head of its vaccination site at Seattle University. “The sheer volume and number of folks that we wanted to be able to serve and bring in requires … 320 individuals each day.” (Tang and Valdes, 3/10)

NBC News:
Discos, Luaus, ’80s Vax-A-Thons: Themed Vaccine Events Encourage People To Get Shots

Across the country, vaccination sites are coming up with creative solutions to encourage people in the U.S. to get their vaccine shots. In cities both big and small, facilities are hosting themed events to break the tension and get people excited about being vaccinated against Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus — all while having some fun. A vaccination site in Texas made headlines Saturday after hosting an ’80’s-themed, 24-hour “Vax-A-Thon,” according to ABC affiliate KVUE. The Family Hospital Systems partnered with Williamson County to vaccinate 7,000 people in 24 hours at the Kelly Reeves Complex in Austin, the station reported. (Wong, 3/9)

Also —

Poll: 1 Of 4 Americans Will Refuse COVID-19 Vaccine 

Despite the unprecedented rollout of three COVID-19 vaccines, 25% of Americans in a new poll from Monmouth University said they are still unwilling to be vaccinated. Many experts believe that without 70% to 80% of the public gaining COVID-19 immunity through infection or vaccination, herd immunity will be difficult for the nation to obtain, especially because 24% of the population is children, who are as yet ineligible for vaccination. (Soucheray, 3/9)

What The Next CDC Guidelines For The Fully Vaccinated Could Look Like 

Some celebrated when the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came out with its long-awaited guidelines for the fully vaccinated Monday. Others were hoping for more, especially about travel. With daily new cases hovering around the 60,000 mark and the threat of variants spreading, navigating the pandemic is admittedly tricky, even for the fully vaccinated. The director of the CDC made clear these guidelines will not be the last word. (Christensen, 3/9)

Vaccination Appointments Flooded, Misused In Some Places, Go Unfilled In Others

In Pasadena, California, ineligible sign ups forced a vaccination clinic to close. Meanwhile, two mass sites in Utah are running below capacity. Vaccine rollout news from other states is in the news too.

Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Thousands Of COVID Vaccine Appointments Going Unfilled

Thousands of vaccine appointments have gone unfilled in the last week, leading local health officials to urge opening COVID-19 vaccinations to people age 55 and older. Clark County’s two mass vaccination sites, as well as smaller sites, are operating well below capacity, Southern Nevada Health District chief health officer Dr. Fermin Leguen said Monday. “We really are struggling right now to fill our vaccination sites,” Leguen said.
Both mass vaccination sites are capable of administering about 4,000 doses per day. However, Leguen said recently the Cashman Center has been administering less than 2,500 per day, and the Las Vegas Convention Center is rarely breaking 3,000. (Scott Davidson and Hynes, 3/9)

Los Angeles Times:
Hollywood Line-Cutters Close Pasadena COVID Vaccine Clinic

Pasadena officials on Tuesday canceled a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for senior citizens, grocery store employees and other essential workers after hundreds of people who were not eligible for the shots signed up for appointments. People who did not yet qualify for the vaccine under state guidelines claimed about 900 of the 1,500 slots at a clinic that was designed for people older than 65 and essential workers who live or work in Pasadena, city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said. Many of the appointments were booked by people who worked in the media and in Hollywood, Derderian said, including at production companies, streaming TV services and news outlets and on the sets of soap operas. (Nelson, 3/9)

In other news about the vaccine rollout —

Tampa Bay Times:
About 1.8 Million Florida Seniors Are Still Not Vaccinated

Three months after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that seniors were his top priority in the coronavirus vaccine rollout, about 1.8 million of the state’s residents 65 and older still hadn’t been vaccinated as of Monday. DeSantis is expanding vaccination eligibility next week to anyone 60 or older, adding another 1.4 million people to those vying with seniors for the often hard-to-get vaccine appointments. Health care workers, people of any age with underlying conditions and firefighters, teachers and law enforcement officers 50 and older also are eligible. (LeFever, 3/10)

The Oregonian:
White House Prioritizes Vaccines For Teachers, Shutting Out Elderly Oregonians From Vaccine Appointments At Some Pharmacies 

Elderly Oregonians who tried to sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations at some local pharmacies this week learned they are no longer eligible for appointments because of new national guidance from the White House that prioritizes teachers. But Oregon already prioritized teachers, authorizing vaccinations Jan. 25 even as seniors were forced to wait until Feb. 8 through March 1 for their turns. Oregon is now significantly behind states like California and Washington in its rate of vaccinations among seniors. (Goldberg, 3/9)

Philadelphia Inquirer:
Federally Funded Health Clinics Are Getting COVID-19 Vaccines To More People Of Color

“One key advantage here is that these organizations are inviting in their own patients. These patients have built up trust with their doctor and nurses over years. They are now listening to the people they trust most to give them advice about the vaccine,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said last month, describing the centers as “a key part of our racial equity strategy.” The strategy seems to be working. As of Feb. 28, nearly two-thirds of the 15,863 vaccines administered by private, nonprofit health centers had gone to African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians. For the city as a whole, 54% of doses have gone to whites, and only a third to those three groups. (The remainder include people whose racial identity is not known or is listed as “other.”) (Brubaker, 3/10)

Also —

Salt Lake Tribune:
No Link Between COVID-19 Vaccine And 4 Utahns Who Died After Shots, Medical Examiner Says

Among the more than half a million Utahns who have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, 154 people had bad reactions that have been reported to a federal database. The reporting includes the deaths of four Utahns after they got a shot. Health experts caution that a person dying shortly after being inoculated does not mean vaccine caused that person’s death. Federal health officials say they found “no evidence that vaccination contributed to patient deaths” in the cases reported to the database after COVID-19 inoculations. (Means, 3/10)

Very Few Severe Allergic Reactions Tied To MRNA COVID Vaccines 

Acute allergic reactions occurred in 2.10% but anaphylaxis in only 0.025% of employees of two Boston hospitals who received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, according to a research letter published yesterday in JAMA. Scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital administered email, text, phone, and smartphone app survey links to 64,900 employees who received a dose of one of the two mRNA coronavirus vaccines from Dec 16, 2020, to Feb 12, 2021. (Van Beusekom, 3/9)

Pfizer’s Newest Vaccine Plant Has Persistent Mold Issues, History Of Recalls 

Pfizer’s management knew last year there was “a mold issue” at the Kansas facility now slated to produce the drugmaker’s urgently needed covid-19 vaccine, according to a Food and Drug Administration inspection report. The McPherson, Kansas, facility, which FDA inspectors wrote is the nation’s largest manufacturer of sterile injectable controlled substances, has a long, troubled history. Nearly a decade’s worth of FDA inspection reports, recalls and reprimands reviewed by KHN show the facility as a repeat offender. FDA investigators have repeatedly noted in reports that the plant has failed to control quality and contamination or fully investigate after production failures. (Tribble, 3/10)