vaccination center
Philadelphia city employees queue to schedule their second COVID-19 vaccine shot after receiving their first at a FEMA community vaccination center on March 2, 2021.

Mark Makela/Getty Images

  • The White House is instituting a "use or lose it" policy for states' COVID-19 vaccine allocations.
  • States with lower demand may have to redistribute their vaccine supply, The Washington Post reports.
  • Average daily vaccine doses have fallen from a peak of 3.5 million in mid-April to around 2.3 million in early May.
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With rates of COVID-19 vaccine doses tapering off in the United States, the White House is telling states they need to either use or lose their vaccine supply, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

Four months into the US's vaccine rollout, the seven-day average of vaccine doses administered has fallen from a peak of 3.5 million doses per day in mid-April to 2.3 million in early May, according to The New York Times. As of Tuesday, 56% of the US's adult population - people who are 18 or older - have received at least one shot and 40% have been fully vaccinated.

The US is now nearing a tipping point of vaccine supply outpacing demand. But the need for vaccination varies greatly by region.

States in the Northeast and New England region are leading with upwards of 50% of their populations having been given at least one shot while states in the South and West are lagging with less than 40% of their populations vaccinated due to factors like higher rates of hesitancy and refusal to take the vaccine.

Read more: How coronavirus variants called 'escape mutants' threaten to undo all our progress

Up until now, a state's weekly allocation of vaccines, based on the adult population, would "roll over" into the next week. The White House will now require states where supply exceeds demand to give their unused vaccine doses to states with more need for vaccines.

The Post reported that the White House is looking to "steer untapped vaccine into a federal bank available to states where demand continues to outstrip supply."

The Biden administration is aiming to deploy a more fluid and flexible approach to target the most vulnerable populations who remain unvaccinated, White House COVID-19 Task Force coordinator Jeff Zients told the Post.

The US is also under pressure to begin sharing its supply of vaccines with other countries, like India, that are facing devastating COVID-19 outbreaks. The US's neighbors, like Canada, are also seeking help because they have far less capacity to manufacture vaccines and have immunized only a small portion of their population.

Last week, the White House announced that it will begin sharing its stockpile of unused doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, which has not been authorized for emergency use in the US, with other countries once the vaccine is cleared through a federal safety process. Up to 60 million doses of that vaccine could be available for export.

The leading drug companies manufacturing the vaccines are also under pressure to release their patents and give up their intellectual property rights to the vaccines, which would allow them to be distributed at greater scale worldwide.

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