Vaccine supply tipping point estimated to be weeks away

Distribution sites expected to expand
Demand for the COVID-19 vaccine remains high in Louisville.
Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 6:35 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - It has been a race to churn out the covid-19 vaccines approved for market.

Until there are enough doses to go around to everyone, state and federal distributors have had to prioritize and limit the number of people eligible to get the vaccine, but, in the near future, supply will exceed demand.

The situation will bring different challenges and opportunities to those across the country waiting for a shot.

The number of people eligible for vaccination continuing to grow as supply does the same.

Vaccine supply continues to increase.
Vaccine supply continues to increase.(WAVE 3 News)

“I got a ton of questions last week when it went from [age] 55 one day to 50 the next day,” Dr. Eric Yazel, the Clark County, Indiana, Health Officer, said. “Everybody is like, what in the world is that all about.”

Yazel, speaking at a LifeSpring Health Systems event this week, illustrated the demand that accompanies that.

“You’ve got to understand, literally, the vaccine sign-up crashes every time you open it up to a new population,” Yazel said. “So, they knew they were going to go down to 50, but they went 55 the first day to try to allow some people to sign up. Then, once the system was able to handle it they went down to 50.”

Those with UofL Health said they have not seen demand waning for the vaccine.

Dr. Jason Smith, the Chief Medical Officer at UofL Health, said experts are now estimating supply will catch up to it in the coming weeks.

“I think the inflection point is coming soon in terms of vaccine availability,” Smith said. “When I say soon, I mean in the course of the next four to six weeks.”

For those still waiting to roll up their sleeves, Smith said the primary difference compared to what those are experiencing now is that opportunities to get the shot at different locations around town will be more plentiful.

As the currently more centralized sites serve all those they can, others will begin to pitch in too.

“When we start to see supply out-strip what our availability to deliver it is for these sites, that’s when were going to be able to push these out to other sites,” he said. “We’ll really see a strong impact across the community.”

Smith said he ideally envisions something similar to flu shot distribution.

“But, to do that, it’s got to be in every CVS, every Walgreens, every office, every UofL Health hospital, you name it,” he said.

UofL drive through sites are on pace to serve about 14,500 doses this week alone. It’s a dramatic increase since December when those weekly numbers were at about 1,000.

Smith said hesitancy is seemingly less of an issue right now than vaccine access.

Other developments the doctor believes could impact supply significantly are an increase in allocation of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and a fourth vaccine, Novavax, potentially reaching the market as early as May.

Smith said Pfizer is beginning to distribute doses in deliveries as large as 1,000 at a time, which can create challenges for some clinics trying to get them in people’s arms quickly.

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