Over 70 Percent of U.S. COVID Vaccine Doses Remain Unused Across the Country

As U.S. coronavirus cases continue to rise, over two-thirds of the more than 15.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses distributed in the country have yet to be administered to the population, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A total of 15,418,500 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been distributed, while only 4,563,260 people have received their first dose, as of Monday, 9 a.m. local time. This means 10,855,240 doses (over 70.4 percent of the total doses distributed) have yet to be used.

The CDC's reporting of doses distributed and people initiating vaccination (those who received their first dose) include totals for both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines.

Doses distributed represent the count recorded as shipped in the CDC's Vaccine Tracking System (VTrckS) since December 13, 2020.

The number of people initiating vaccination represents the count of doses administered "as reported to the CDC by state, territorial, and local public health agencies and four federal entities (Bureau of Prisons, Department of Defense, Indian Health Service, and Veterans Health Administration) since December 14, 2020," the CDC notes.

The government health body explains: "A large difference between the number of doses distributed and the number of people initiating vaccination is expected at this point in the COVID vaccination program due to several factors, including delays in reporting of administered doses and management of available vaccine stocks by jurisdictions and federal pharmacy partners.

"Healthcare providers report doses to federal, state, territorial, and local agencies up to 72 hours after administration. There may be additional lag for data to be transmitted from the federal, state, territorial, or local agency to CDC," it adds.

As of Monday, South Dakota was reported to have the most number of people per capita who received their first dose of the vaccine, with 3,042 per 100,000 people having initiated vaccination, according to the CDC.

Kansas, which recorded the country's fifth-highest average daily case count per 100,000 people in the past seven days, was reported to have the least number of people per capita who initiated vaccination, with 690 per 100,000 people having received their first dose so far, according to the CDC.

The latest figures come as New York and Florida announced hospitals will face penalties if vaccinations are not administered quickly enough.

Hospitals in New York, where the first case of the new strain of the virus detected in the U.K. was confirmed in the state on Monday, must dispense vaccines within seven days of receiving their doses or be subject to a fine and a reduction in future vaccine supplies, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

"I don't want the vaccine in a fridge or a freezer, I want it in somebody's arm," Cuomo noted. "If you're not performing this function, it does raise questions about the operating efficiency of the hospital."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio noted the city's goal of having a million residents receive their first dose by the end of this month has been hampered, with only around 110,000 having initiated vaccination, according to city data.

The city currently has 125 vaccination sites and is planning to double that number by the end of January, the mayor noted.

A total of 895,925 doses have been distributed in New York, with 274,713 residents having received their first dose, as of Monday, according to the CDC.

Over in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis noted at a Monday press briefing: "I want to be very clear on one important point, hospitals that do not do a good job of getting the vaccine out will have their allocations transferred to hospitals that are doing a good job and getting the vaccine out.

"We do not want the vaccine to just be idle at some hospital system," he added.

A total of 1,137,000 doses have been distributed in Florida, while 264,512 people have initiated vaccination, according to the CDC.

Speaking to Newsweek last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious diseases expert, said it was "very important to get the overwhelming majority of the people vaccinated," warning the country could otherwise be left in a "chronic state of a lower level of infection," with its ability to ultimately end the pandemic significantly compromised.

Fauci estimated that around 70 to 85 percent of Americans will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to see a "dramatic decrease" in cases and reach herd immunity—a state where a significant portion of a population has been inoculated against the virus thus preventing further spread.

Vials of Pfizer vaccine Virginia December 2020
Vials of undiluted Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines being prepared to administer to staff and residents at the Goodwin House Bailey's Crossroads senior living community in Virginia on December 30, 2020. More than 70 percent of COVID-19 vaccine doses remain unused across the country, as of Monday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The wider picture

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 85.7 million people, including just over 20.8 million in the U.S., since it was first reported in Wuhan, China.

More than 1.8 million people have died worldwide and more than 48.2 million have recovered as of Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The graphic below, produced by Statista, shows the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S.

COVID-19 spread in U.S.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, shows the percentage of adult Americans who would or would not get a COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID vaccine hesitancy in U.S.