The numbers continue to climb: one in 15 Americans has now tested positive for COVID-19. As the death toll continues to grow, the race to get people vaccinated is running into major hurdles. Officials say millions of doses are going unused…some left sitting on shelves and others thrown away.
As President-Elect Biden received his second dose of coronavirus vaccine Monday afternoon, he reaffirmed what his first order of business will be as president.
"My number one priority is getting vaccines into people's arms like we just did today as rapidly as we can," Biden said.
As it stands, countless Americans eligible for the vaccine are unable to secure a shot.
"They absolutely turned us away," said Florida resident Phyllis Humphreys. "They said, no, you cannot. We're not doing any, we don't hardly have enough vaccines for the people who have appointments."
So far, 22 million doses have been distributed, but less than 7 million shots have been administered. Biden declares he will accelerate the process as soon as he's sworn in by releasing nearly all available doses instead of holding some back for second shots.
"We've got to start getting these vaccines out to the states," said Dr. Anish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health. "There's a balancing act here, but given the time we're in, I think this is the right move."
But there is hope, as leaders nationwide work to meet the demand.
"We now have the freedom to vaccinate anyone over 75, anybody over 75," said New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio.
The city is now home to five vaccination sites, two of them operating 24/7.
New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, loosened rules for distribution after reports of doses expiring before getting used. Some of the new groups to qualify include pharmacy cashiers and stock workers.
In Michigan, that group includes first responders, teachers, and those 65 and older.
In San Antonio where officials are using the Alamodome to distribute doses, nine thousand slots were booked in just six minutes.
And in Florida, where some of the most vulnerable seniors have been turned away, 500 of them were vaccinated at a church Sunday with no problems.
"It's nothing to it," said Ruth Fleming after receiving the vaccine. "It's crucial with the way things are today with this virus."
Yet as access grows, so does demand, especially in the growing epicenter of Los Angeles, California where hospitals are overwhelmed.
"I've been here 21 years and I've seen more people pass away in the past week, in the past couple weeks, than all of my weeks combined as a nurse," explained Donna Rottschafer, a nurse in Orange County.
Among those who recently died from the virus was Tuskegee Airman Theodore Lumpkin, Jr. who passed away just days shy of his 101st birthday. Officials are bracing for another spike in cases as they await expected fallout from family gatherings over the holidays.
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