At Elite Medical Centers, Even Workers Who Don’t Qualify Are Vaccinated while actual rollout is delayed for those who need it the most.

A 20-something who works on computers. A young researcher who studies cancer. Technicians in basic research labs.

These are some of the thousands of people who have been immunized against the coronavirus at hospitals affiliated with Columbia University, New York University, Harvard and Vanderbilt, even as millions of frontline workers and older Americans are waiting their turns.

Officials did not envision that the vaccines would be given to healthy people in their 20s and 30s ahead of older people, essential workers or others at high risk. States should still prioritize groups that “make sense,” Dr. Stephen Hahn, the F.D.A. commissioner, told reporters on Friday.

Each state has established its own version of the guidelines, but with the rollout proceeding at a glacial pace, pressure has been growing for a more flexible approach. Public health officials sounded the alarm for months, complaining that they did not have enough support or money to get COVID-19 vaccines quickly into arms. Now the slower-than-expected start to the largest vaccination effort in U.S. history is proving them right.

Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine program, had promised to distribute enough doses to immunize 20 million people in the U.S. in December. It missed that target, and as of Friday, about 6.6 million people had received their first shot, according to a tracker from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 22 million doses have been delivered to states.

The American Hospital Association has estimated that 1.8 million people need to be vaccinated daily from Jan. 1 to May 31 to reach widespread immunity by the summer. The current pace is more than 1 million people per day below that. Vaccine rollout confirms public health officials’ warnings (

At Elite Medical Centers, Even Workers Who Don’t Qualify Are Vaccinated (