Federal health officials said on Tuesday that they were directing nearly all drugstores and grocery-store pharmacies to offer second doses of Covid-19 vaccines to people who received their first shot from a different provider.
The primary goal is to allow college students who got their first shots on or near campus to get their second doses at home, according to Andy Slavitt, the White House’s senior adviser for Covid-19 response. To accomplish that, he said, pharmacies participating in a federal vaccine distribution program will set aside any residency requirements for vaccine recipients.
Growing numbers of Americans who received a first shot of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna vaccine are not getting their second shots, in part because of challenges with access. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 5 million people, or nearly 8 percent of those who were partially vaccinated, have missed getting their second dose.
Though that is not a high rate compared with those seen for multidose vaccines against other conditions, some states have been taking steps to prevent it from rising.
College students are a challenging group to get fully vaccinated. Many who became eligible recently got their first shot while still on campus, but will have left for the summer by the time they are due for their second shot.
Other recipients may have been unable to get a second appointment at their original provider or had an appointment that was canceled.
Many pharmacies were already giving out second vaccine doses to people who got first shots elsewhere. CVS stores, in particular, have become a destination for people scrambling to find a second shot, and a spokeswoman for Walgreens said her company was offering second doses without regard to where the first was administered.
New York City officials said on Tuesday that the city has taken a similar approach, allowing people to receive second shots at any city-run site. The problem is less pronounced in the city than it is nationally, with only about 5 percent of city residents missing their second dose, officials said.
People can schedule appointments at city sites in advance, or they can walk in. They need to bring proof of their first dose, like a C.D.C. vaccination card or an electronic record, to ensure that they receive the right vaccine within therecommended time.
“Our goal here is to keep reminding people to get that second dose however works best,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference. “We’re going to accommodate them and keep this progress moving.”
Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said that getting a second dose at a different location than the first should be a last resort. “We want people to keep their second-dose appointments if they’ve already made them,” he said.