COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Tracker: Week of Feb. 8

Editor's note: Below you'll find the release of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Tracker originally published Feb. 9, 2021. Visit the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Tracker homepage for the latest data.

In spite of the limited vaccine supply it has to work with, the U.S. is starting to find its groove when it comes to getting COVID-19 shots into arms. As of February 9, almost 72% of the doses delivered by the government have been administered, up from 65% last week.

Comparatively, during the last week of January, only about half of vaccines delivered federally had actually been administered. 

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna for emergency use in the United States. Each vaccine requires two doses for COVID-19 immunity, spaced 21 days (Pfizer-BioNTech) or 28 days (Moderna) apart.

While the improvement in vaccination efficiency is a step in the right direction, it’s not a massive change. The same issues continue to plague almost every states’ vaccination efforts: confusion about when and where to sign up, distribution challenges, and supply issues, to name a few.

The states who’ve most gracefully navigated those challenges continue to hold their spots at the top of the list for highest vaccination rates: West Virginia, Alaska, and North Dakota. On a per capita level, these states have administered the full two-dose regimen to over 5% of their populations. Impressively, West Virginia is nearing 6%—more than double the national cadence. 

West Virginia was one of the first states to opt out of a federally-organized pharmacy program to help vaccinate long-term care facilities, a move that allowed it to work faster among its own network of pharmacies, and a move that many states have begun to copy. As of last week, Louisiana followed suit, taking back control of 15,600 vaccines slated to be administered through CVS and Walgreens.

That may be just part of the reason Louisiana saw such a jump on the list of two vaccine doses administered per capita, moving from 35th to 11th in the span of a week. The state was able to send vaccine doses to 406 providers across all 46 of its parishes last week, meaning more personnel were able to administer more of the available shots.

First Doses Are Particularly Meaningful

Understanding how quickly states are able to administer their vaccine allocations is important—after all, it will inform how many vaccines the government allots them moving forward. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. The number of people receiving their first doses and when exactly they receive them can influence how good a state’s vaccination efforts look.

For example, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows states like Idaho and Wisconsin had the greatest percent change in people with one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in the past week. That means more people in these states are getting vaccinated for the very first time, helping drive the population closer to herd immunity and reducing disease spread, even if they’re not “fully” inoculated yet. 

If these patterns from the last seven days held, the U.S. could get 70% of the population both vaccine doses by October.

Why 70%?

While there’s still no clear percentage of the population necessary to reach herd immunity for COVID-19, 70% is a good place to start. Herd immunity refers to the protectiveness achieved when a significant portion of a population develops immunity to an infectious disease, either through vaccination or having a prior illness. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, used to say 60% to 70% of the population needed to be vaccinated or recovered to reach herd immunity, his projection has evolved to range from 70% to 90%.

Herd immunity is a complex calculation that relies on both past infections and number of people vaccinated. Because the World Health Organization emphasizes herd immunity should rely on vaccination and not disease exposure, for the sake of projections, our numbers focus on the time it will take to hit 70% through vaccination alone.

States Are Getting More Specific With Eligibility Requirements

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities be offered COVID-19 vaccines first, followed by:

  • People age 75 and older; essential workers outside of the healthcare sphere
  • People ages 65-74; people ages 16 and older with high-risk medical conditions; all other essential workers 

However, it’s important to remember that the ACIP recommendations are just that—recommendations.

In reality, each state is developing its own framework for who is considered eligible for a vaccine and when. 

A report from The New York Times shows 43 states have now expanded eligibility to non-medical workers. 

  • 26 have opened eligibility up to teachers 
  • 13 states (at least in some counties) have opened eligibility to grocery store employees
  • 15 states/territories have included incarcerated populations in their Phase 1 vaccine distribution plans, according to the COVID Prison Project

Data by Amanda Morelli/Adrian Nesta

By Anisa Arsenault
Anisa joined the company in 2018 after managing news surrounding fertility, pregnancy, and parenting for The Bump. Her health and wellness articles have appeared in outlets like Prevention and Metro US. At Verywell, she is responsible for the news program, which includes coverage of COVID-19.