At its peak, in late March, the mass-vaccination site at Nashville’s Music City Center was giving out 2,100 doses a day. It was all hands on deck: Local nurses, volunteers, FEMA employees, and even U.S. Forest Service EMTs were redeployed to help give COVID-19 shots. But last week, the number of daily doses dropped to less than 1,300—about 1,100 second doses and only 190 first doses. Imagine three weeks from now, when only 190 people are due back for dose two, says Brian Todd, a spokesperson for the local public-health department. At that point, the number “is going to be very low,” he told me. The Music City Center site will close for good on May 28.
The era of mass vaccinations is ending: Although these big sites were key to speeding up vaccinations after a rocky start in the winter, many are beginning to find themselves idle as the country’s daily vaccination rate falls from its mid-April peak. “We are running out of eager, enthusiastic people who will chase down the vaccine wherever we put it,” says Kelly Moore, the deputy director of the nonprofit Immunization Action Coalition.
But with more than half of Americans still unvaccinated, the COVID-19 immunization campaign is far from over. It is now entering a new phase. Instead of in convention centers and arenas, shots will be distributed across a larger number of smaller sites: pharmacies, doctors’ offices, churches, mosques, factory parking lots, barbershops, bars, breweries, even individual homes. This more tailored phase of the vaccination campaign introduces a new set of challenges, but by making vaccination as easy as possible, public-health officials hope to reach those who are hesitant, busy, or simply indifferent. To inch closer to the goal of vaccinating the whole population, the vaccines will have to go to the people, rather than requiring the people to go to the vaccines.