Amid slow vaccinations, US hospital leaders call for federal help

The federal government must do more than hand off coronavirus vaccines to states, the American Hospital Association said amid resounding criticism for a slow vaccination effort.

“There needs to be coordination and communication with all of the key stakeholders to identify and eliminate any barriers to getting every eligible and willing individual vaccinated as quickly as possible, as well as the support and resources to accomplish this task,” The association said in an emailed statement.

The massive undertaking of a nationwide vaccination effort is occurring under “very stressed circumstances” that include shortages in personal protective equipment, staffing strains and strapped intensive care unit capacity in some areas, the hospital association, which represents about 5,000 hospitals and 43,000 people, said.

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American Hospital Association is calling on federal help to better administer coronavirus vaccines into Americans’ arms. (iStock)

In fact, Los Angeles County hospitals are so overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients that EMS workers were told Monday to ration oxygen, according to reports. 

“Given the acute need to conserve oxygen, effective immediately, EMS should only administer supplemental oxygen to patients with oxygen saturation below 90%,” the directive said, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

California officials recently said they were having trouble getting the necessary amount of oxygen to critically ill coronavirus patients, with supply issues causing at least five Los Angeles County hospitals to declare an “internal disaster,” which means they could turn away ambulances. 

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The American Hospital Association expected the issues on a national-scale to resolve, with the pace in vaccinations to “increase dramatically” in the coming weeks.

“The federal role must go beyond just handing off the vaccines to the states,” the association said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, president and CEO of the advocacy group Biotechnology Innovation Organization, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-hosts Tuesday that the U.S. had a national vaccine effort, but that it is lacking a national vaccination effort.

She said there must be public communication, ensuring states have necessary resources, including training for an IT system the government is using to track who has been vaccinated.

“None of the support resources have been made available in that way,” she said. 

“Well it’s too early and probably pointless to get into a blame game; it is clear that we need to deliver resources to the states, so that they’re able to not just have the vaccines sitting in warehouses, but actually be able to deliver vaccines to those who need it,” McMurry-Heath said.

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By Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. had distributed over 17 million coronavirus vaccine doses and administered 4.8 million vaccines into arms, though the CDC figures are likely underestimates due to lags in reporting, officials say.

Fox News’ David Aaro and Blake Burman contributed to this report.