US ramps up COVID-19 vaccinations

·2-min read

The US is entering the second month of the biggest vaccination drive in history with a major expansion of the campaign, opening football stadiums, major league ballparks, fairgrounds and convention centres to inoculate a larger and more diverse pool of people.

After a frustratingly slow rollout involving primarily healthcare workers and nursing home residents, states are moving on to the next phase before the first one is complete, making shots available to such groups as senior citizens, teachers, bus drivers, police officers and firefighters.

Similarly, in Britain, where a more contagious variant of the virus is raging out of control and deaths are soaring, seven large-scale vaccination sites opened Monday at such places as a big convention centre in London, a racecourse in Surrey and a tennis and soccer complex in Manchester.

Across the US, where the outbreak has entered its most lethal phase yet and the death toll has climbed to about 375,000, politicians and health officials have complained in the past several days that too many shots were sitting unused on the shelves because of overly rigid adherence to the federal guidelines that put an estimated 24 million healthcare workers and nursing home residents at the front of the line.

As of Monday morning, nearly nine million Americans had received their first shot, or 2.7 per cent of the US population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many states are responding by throwing open the line to others and ramping up the pace of vaccinations, in some cases offering them 24-7.

In California, one of the deadliest hot spots in the US, the drive-through operation outside the San Diego ballpark is gearing up to inoculate 5000 healthcare workers a day.

Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles will also be pressed into use by the end of the week, with city officials saying it will be able to vaccinate 12,000 people a day.

California has hit another gloomy milestone, surpassing a death toll of 30,000. It took the state six months to record its first 10,000 deaths but barely a month to go from 20,000 to 30,000. At the weekend, California reported a two-day record of 1163 deaths.

About 584,000 doses have been administered in California, or about 1.5 per cent of the population.