Operation Warp Speed officials consider giving some half-doses of Moderna vaccine to speed up distribution

Officials from the Trump administration and Operation Warp Speed are reportedly considering whether it would be safe and effective to give half-doses of the Moderna vaccine to younger people as a way to speed up distribution and get more people vaccinated. 

Chief science adviser for Operation Warp Speed Moncel Slaoui said evidence has shown that for people ages 18 to 55, two half-doses of the vaccine “induces identical immune response” to the normal 100 microgram dose, The Hill reported.

Slaoui told Margaret Brennan on CBS’s Face the Nation the strategy “means exactly achieving the objective of immunizing double the number of people with the doses we have.”

To date, the vaccine rollout has been slower than anticipated, with only 4 million people being vaccinated in 2020 rather than the 20 million the Trump administration set as a goal.

State unpreparedness slowing distribution of vaccine

States are struggling to distribute the vaccines in a timely manner, and the federal government has not been overly sympathetic.

Slaoui said to Brennan that the administration assumed states had distribution plans when they requested the vaccine, but that has not apparently been the case.

“Our assumption has been that there is a plan in place to immunize. We stand by here to help any specific request. We will do the best we can, as we have done over the last eight months, to make these vaccines, indeed, make it into the arms of people,” Slaoui said.

When vaccines are requested, half are shipped to the state, with the other half held in a warehouse to be stored until it’s time for the second dose. Health departments have been struggling to handle the vaccine rollout in many locations, however.

Vaccine being stretched

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 13 million doses have been delivered so far, and not all of those are Moderna vaccines. The U.S. is expected to get 100 million Moderna doses by March, however, and other 100 million by June.

Slaoui came out against another idea to stretch the vaccines, giving only one dose of the vaccine instead of two. Studies have shown that the second dose gives 10 times the immune benefit of the single dose.

In the U.K., by contrast, more people are being given a first dose, with the second dose being delayed for up to three months, when supplies should be catching up with demand.

Slaoui said that would probably not happen in the U.S.

“We have no data after one dose,” Slaoui said. Delaying the second vaccinations “without any data I think would not be responsible,” he said.

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