New B117 Strain and the Great US Vaccination Shortage


Vaccine shortages continue to compound government inoculation efforts (Source: Yahoo News)

Jason Lin

Since the first vaccine was administered in the United States in mid-December, the CDC reports that around 31.2 million doses have been distributed and 12.3 million doses administered. Yet even with such a large distribution and administration of new vaccines, COVID-19 rates still steadily rise as days go by, with nearly an average of 232,450 people losing their lives every single day. With a newly discovered strain touching down in Los Angeles, and growing concerns over holiday surges in coronavirus cases, vaccinations are becoming an evermore momentous issue that governments around the world are scrambling to deal with. 

The United States in particular has been hard hit by coronavirus cases with nearly 24 million infected folks and nearly 400,000 deaths. Headlines in the US speak of the multiple vaccine shortages and mishaps that are impeding US public health. The vital questions still remain: What is happening currently? Why are vaccine distributions being disrupted? And, how does the situation change with the new strain of COVID-19? 

The United States, while having an impressive number of total vaccinations, is currently below its quota of projected vaccinations. According to BusinessInsider: “The US fell far short of its goal to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of 2020. At its current pace, it would take the country 9 years to vaccinate the whole population.” This is certainly alarming as a 9-year lockdown is definitely not ideal for a country’s economy and just the general quality of citizen health. Furthermore, multiple states throughout the United States are currently facing shortages of vaccines. According to, “New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday that while the city was ramping up its vaccination capacity, supplies were still coming in at “a very paltry” 100,000 doses a week, which put it on course to run dry in the coming week.” 

As the situation stands, states are currently being overwhelmed with the demand for vaccines and are unable to keep up with the evermore amounts of people. In fact, one of New York’s healthcare providers was forced to cancel both new and old vaccination appointments because of the delay in the state’s projected shipments. Wait times in the Empire State have already been stretched to mid-April and projects about a return to normalcy remain bleak. New York is just one example of many of the current effects that vaccine shortages are having on the American healthcare system. 

What is certainly odd, however, is that the current statistics on vaccine production seem very promising. Moderna is ramping up its projected production from 500 million doses to 600 million doses in 2021. The quantity of Moderna vaccines alone would not only cover every man, woman, and child in the United States but also the citizens of Brazil as well. However, that is not the current status quo. Dr. Fauci said, “To me, what appears to be the imminent problem that’s right in front of us is getting people vaccinated with the doses that we have”.  The issue with mass inoculation is that one needs people to actually inoculate other people. Ironically, such medical professions are in quite short supply during a worldwide pandemic. Furthermore, vaccines don’t move themselves, and some need to be kept in very particular conditions to remain effective. Multiple coronavirus vaccines also require second doses in order to amplify the immunity provided by the first and ensure patient safety. 

Beyond just production and environmental concerns, designating distribution and transportation to destinations also all take valuable time and effort. This is compounded by the varying quality of information from the federal government. Only about 2.8 million people in the US have gotten their first vaccine dose during 2020 which remains only 14% of the projected amount. As such, the compound issue of both federal to state vaccine distribution and administration lay at the heart of the current vaccination storage. 

However, the situation is made all the more difficult with the introduction of a new strain of Covid-19. B.1.1.7, also known as the “UK strain”, has touched down on the United States and current projections are quite grim. According to a new computer model of the spread, detailed in a report Friday (Jan. 15) in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 76 cases have been detected in 10 U.S. states. However, because of its 50-74% higher infectivity rate, it may become the new dominant strain by March 2021. Such a statistic is deeply alarming because it may put the US’s current vaccination efforts in jeopardy. While the CDC model did project a decrease with vaccination in the long term, vaccination had little effect on the virus’s transmission during the first few months. As the prognosis shows, even a short-term spike of cases can lead to significant numbers so deaths and suffering. Another issue is that such an influx of cases could easily overwhelm the US’s already strained healthcare service which may force hospitals into a situation of only treating those with the highest survivability rate. 

Once more, the United States almost finds itself back where it started with COVID-19. A high and rapidly increasing number of cases and an evermore deteriorating public health status. Evidently, mass vaccinations are not going to be enough for the return to normalcy projected under the Biden administration. Further political tensions on mask-wearing and lockdowns have simply perpetuated the diseases spread leading to fewer vaccinations, more infections, and a truly sobering amount of deaths. However, not all hope is lost yet, the CDC still projects that prevention of contraction until vaccination may be an effective solution to significantly reducing case numbers. Whether it be social distancing, wearing masks, or staying away from crowds every case avoided is a thousand more avoided. According to Dr. Fauci, “Those things, simple as they are, can turn it around.”