Professor Joshua Salomon, Ph.D. and his colleagues at Stanford crunched the numbers on the government's current strategy for shipping COVID-19 vaccines to individual states.
That policy takes into account that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses spaced several weeks apart.
He says the so-called "fixed model" calls for holding roughly 50 percent of the available doses for each cycle in reserve -- That's to assure that enough second doses are readily available after a three-week period in case of a supply disruption.
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"So I think the current scheme is really putting a premium on avoiding that worst case scenario of a vaccine supply. But the cost of that is we're not making available as many vaccinations as possible," says Professor Salomon.
He believes fighting the current surge in COVID-19 deaths could call for front-loading the number of vaccine doses being released instead.
An alternative flexible model calls for dropping the amount of reserve doses down to just 10 percent, and releasing the rest now while the virus is spiking, then making up the difference in later cycles.
The Stanford team believes the adjustment could prevent between 23 percent to 29 percent more new COVID-19 cases in the near term.
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"So for lots of reasons this is an incredibly dangerous and critical time. And so we're looking at this two-month period and asking 'how can we maximize the potential benefit of the available doses that we have,'" he explains.
The study examined trial data from the Pfizer vaccine, which is a little more than 50 percent effective with just the first dose. Professor Salomon says the goal would still be to get patients a second dose within the prescribed time frame, while trying to knock down the current spike in cases.
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