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Surgeon general tells states not to let priority guidelines slow vaccinations

The Hill logo The Hill 1/6/2021 Peter Sullivan
Jerome Adams talking on a cell phone: Surgeon general tells states not to let priority guidelines slow vaccinations © Greg Nash Surgeon general tells states not to let priority guidelines slow vaccinations

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Tuesday urged states to speed up vaccinations by moving down the list of priority groups if supply is outstripping demand from one group.

Adams's comments about a way to increase the pace of vaccination come amid widespread concerns about the slow rollout of vaccines so far. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracker, only about 4.8 million out of about 17 million vaccines distributed have actually been administered so far.

Adams, speaking on NBC's "Today" show, said states should not be so concerned about vaccinating people in the exact right order that they end up slowing down the process.

"Your headline today really should be, 'Surgeon General tells states and governors to move quickly to other priority groups,'" Adams said. "If the demand isn't there in 1a, go to 1b, and continue on down. And if the demand isn't there in one location, move those vaccines to another location."


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The 1a and 1b priority groups are set by a CDC advisory committee: 1a is health care workers and nursing home residents, 1b is people over 75 and front-line essential workers, and the list continues down the line of prioritization.

But Adams urged states to move down the list if the process is going too slowly, or if some health workers in a location do not want the vaccine, as has been reported in some cases.

"Many folks, and I've been to states all across the country, feel beholden to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices guidelines to vaccinate everyone in group 1a before they move to 1b, and beyond," he said, referring to the CDC advisory committee. "And what I want people to know is, these are guidelines, but we've been telling these states since September that we need to make sure we're prioritizing getting everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible."

He said in many cases vaccines are simply "sitting in freezers."

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