The US is entering the second month of the biggest vaccination drive in history with a major expansion of the campaign, opening football stadiums, major league ballparks, fairgrounds and convention centers to inoculate a larger and more diverse pool of people.
After a frustratingly slow rollout involving primarily health care workers and nursing home residents, states are moving on to the next phase before the first one is complete, making shots available to such groups as senior citizens, teachers, bus drivers, police officers and firefighters.
“It gives you hope,” said David Garvin, a New Yorker who turns 80 next weekend and got a vaccination at a city-run site in Brooklyn on Monday, the first day the state made people over 75 eligible along with various front-line workers. “I’ve been in my room for six months.”
In Southern California, 41-year-old nurse Julieann Sparks received a shot through her car window at a drive-thru vaccination site that opened in a parking lot near the San Diego Padres’ baseball stadium.
“It really truly was a hassle-free experience,” she said. After receiving a vaccination, drivers had to stay there for 15 minutes so that they could be watched for any reaction.
Similarly, in Britain, where a more contagious variant of the virus is raging out of control and deaths are soaring, seven large-scale vaccination sites opened Monday at such places as a big convention center in London, a racecourse in Surrey and a tennis and soccer complex in Manchester.
Across the US, where the outbreak has entered its most lethal phase yet and the death toll has climbed to about 375,000, politicians and health officials have complained over the past several days that too many shots were sitting unused on the shelves because of overly rigid adherence to the federal guidelines that put an estimated 24 million health care workers and nursing home residents at the front of the line.
About 9 million Americans have received their first shot, or 2.7% of the US population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts say as much as 85% of the population will have to be inoculated to achieve “herd immunity” and vanquish the outbreak.
Many states are responding by throwing open the line to other groups and ramping up the pace of vaccinations, in some cases offering them 24-7.
In California, one of the deadliest hot spots in the US, the drive-thru operation outside the San Diego ballpark is gearing up to inoculate 5,000 health care workers a day.