The U.S. is confronted with an ever-growing surplus of coronavirus vaccine, looming expiration dates and stubbornly lagging demand at a time when the developing world is clamoring for doses to stem a rise in infections.
Cash prizes, free beer and marijuana, raffled-off hunting rifles and countless other giveaways around the country have failed to significantly move the needle on vaccine hesitancy, raising the specter of new outbreaks.
Millions of Johnson & Johnson doses nationwide were set to expire this month before the government extended their dates by six weeks, but some leaders acknowledge it will be difficult to use them up even by then.
“We really cannot let doses expire. That would be a real outrage, given the need to get vaccines to some under-vaccinated communities in the U.S. and the glaring gap in vaccinations and the inequity of vaccinations that we have globally,” said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, chair of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.
President Joe Biden wants to have 70% of the adult U.S. population at least partially vaccinated by July 4. But the U.S. could well fail to meet that target. As of Friday, 64% of Americans 18 and older had had at least one dose, by the CDC’s count.
Some states, especially in the Northeast, have already reached that 70% goal for adults, while places like Mississippi and Alabama are nowhere close. Mississippi, in fact, has been transferring large quantities of vaccines to other states and the federal government.
Amid the glut, the White House has announced plans to share 80 million doses globally by the end of June and also buy 500 million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine and donate them to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union over the next year.
Among the countries that will receive vaccines from America, is Jamaica where just some eight percent of the population has been vaccinated.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, says he welcomes the United States’ commitment to donate vaccines to Latin America and the Caribbean.
“We welcome the announcement of the United States President [Joseph] Biden and his administration to make available some of their vaccines for the region,” Holness said.
“Certainly, it will not be enough even in the first instance to satisfy our total demand to bring us to herd immunity, but we welcome it and appreciate it as a continuing example for rich countries who have surpluses to make them available right across the world, right across the globe, not necessarily entirely by grant, but certainly available for purchase,” Mr. Holness said.
The Prime Minister also said Jamaica has put aside the fiscal resources to purchase the vaccines that are needed.