14 Jan 2021

New York seeks more Covid-19 vaccine as US death toll hits record

1:29 pm on 14 January 2021

As the United States recorded its highest single-day death toll since the coronavirus pandemic began nearly a year ago, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday (US time) said the city would fall short of its inoculation goals unless it could get more vaccine.

SANTA ROSA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 13: Safeway pharmacist Preston Young fills a syringe with Moderna COVID-19 vaccination during a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds on January 13, 2021 in Santa Rosa, California.

A health worker prepares to inject the Moderna vaccine into a woman at a drive-in clinic in Sonoma Country in California. Photo: 2021 Getty Images

The mayor said short supplies were hampering New York City's efforts to increase its immunisation campaign. His appeal comes as the country as a whole struggles to meet an overall goal, with vaccinations now running far behind a target of 20 million people by now.

"We need the federal government, the state government and the manufacturers to step up and get us more supply immediately," de Blasio said at a briefing.

The country's most populous city is adding vaccination sites across its five boroughs, including its two Major League Baseball parks, and has succeeded in loosening restrictions on who is eligible for vaccination, de Blasio said.

New York is on track to inoculate 1 million of its more than 8 million residents by the end of the month, but only if it gets enough vaccine, he said.

"I confirmed with our healthcare team yesterday that even with normal supplies that we expect to have delivered next week, we will run out of vaccine at some point next week, unless we get a major new resupply," he added.

New York mayor Bill de Blasio said nurse Kaci Hickox is a "hero" who deserves better.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is warning the city may run out of vaccine supplies next week. Photo: AFP / Getty Images North America

Nationwide, only about one-third of the 29.4 million doses distributed to states have been administered, according to data from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The US Food and Drug Administration has authorised the vaccine from Pfizer and partner BioNTech SE and a second vaccine from Moderna for emergency use. Both vaccines require two doses spaced a few weeks apart.

The chief science officer of Johnson & Johnson said the company was on track to roll out its single-shot coronavirus vaccine in March, and it planned to have clear data on how effective it was by the end of January or early February.

Promise of 1b doses from Johnson & Johnson

In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, Dr Paul Stoffels also said the company expected to meet its stated target of delivering 1 billion doses of its vaccine by the end of this year as the company ramps up production.

The country's struggle to inoculate its population comes as the number of people to die from the disease hit a daily record of 4336 on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally.

That brought the number of US Covid-19 casualties to 380,524, with the number of cases at 22.7 million by Tuesday night, more than any other country.

The widely cited model of the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation expects January to be the pandemic's deadliest month so far in the US.

A health care worker tends to a Covid-19 patient while she is using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to help with her breathing difficulties in a Covid-19 holding pod at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California on January 11, 2021.

A health care worker nurses a patient in a hospital in Apple Valley in California. Photo: AFP

The virus is projected to take more than 108,000 lives this month before the death rate ebbs as more vaccine is administered, the IHME said. By 1 April, it expects a death toll of 567,000.

On Tuesday, federal health officials agreed to release millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses the government had held back for second shots, and they urged states to offer them to all Americans over the age of 65 or with chronic health conditions.

US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said during a news briefing that the US pace of inoculations has risen to 700,000 per day and is expected to rise to 1 million per day within a week to 10 days.

A leveling-off of the number of Covid-19 patients requiring hospitalisation has emerged as an encouraging sign in the past week.

- Reuters

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs