Why US Vaccine Numbers Took a Dip and Why it Might Not Mean Much

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An important metric for understanding the state of the U.S. coronavirus vaccine rollout took a dip on Tuesday. Should it be cause for concern?

For the first time in a week, the seven-day average for daily new reported vaccinations given to Americans declined, to about 1.32 million from roughly 1.35 million, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The numbers are viewable on this New York Times chart).

The one-day totals have been on the decline since hitting 1.69 million doses administered on Jan. 30. By comparison, the one-day total for Tuesday was about 558,000.

But in an interview Wednesday, Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, said it was too early to be worried — and she emphasized that long-term vaccination trends appeared headed in the right direction.

Dr. Nuzzo noted that the big winter snowstorm that strafed the Northeast this week may have affected the number of doses administered. New York State, for example, canceled vaccine appointments at numerous state-run sites Tuesday, and New Jersey closed its six vaccine “mega-sites” on both Monday and Tuesday.

Moreover, some states only report their vaccine data to the C.D.C. once a week, meaning some large tranches of administered vaccines may not yet be reflected in the data.

The general slope for vaccination administration, Dr. Nuzzo said, has been climbing steadily upward since December. She said she was relatively confident that the U.S. could soon achieve a level of 1.5 million shots a day, as President Biden has called for.

“I mean, we’ve had some days that we’ve exceeded it, so I do think that we are on our way there,” she said.

Dr. Timothy Brewer, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said it was difficult to draw any conclusions about the recent dip. “What you really want to get a sense of is what’s the trend over time,” he said, adding, “It’s getting better.”

So far, the federal government has delivered about 52.7 million doses of vaccines to states, territories and federal agencies. But the rollout has been rife with frustration, confusion and poor communication.

Recently, thousands of people across the country learned that their appointments had been abruptly canceled, after vaccine shipments to local health departments and other distributors fell short of expectations.

Earlier this week, the federal government announced that it would soon send one million vaccine doses to about 6,500 retail pharmacies, the beginning of a program that will deliver vaccines directly to as many as 40,000 drugstores and grocery stores. The first shipment will go out Feb. 11, Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator, said Tuesday.

That will mark the start of a new stage in the vaccination campaign in the United States. The effort so far has been centered in health care facilities and sites like stadiums, but will shift to smaller, more local settings.

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