- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Trump administration provided an overview Wednesday of how it will distribute a coronavirus vaccine at no cost to Americans, from syncing supply with demand to making sure doses match, though said widespread distribution to the public may stretch well into next year.

Officials plan to dispatch the first doses to distribution sites within 24 hours of a successful vaccine candidate receiving emergency approval or a biologics license from the Food and Drug Administration.

However, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Congress that widespread distribution might last until mid-2021.

“I think there will be vaccine that initially will be available sometimes between November and December, but very limited supply and will have to be prioritized,” Director Robert Redfield told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “If you’re asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public, so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we’re probably looking at late second-quarter, third quarter 2021.”

Dr. Redfield stressed that persons with the highest need would get the shots sooner, and that would have an impact on the pandemic before mid-2021.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said she didn’t want to get into “hypotheticals” but said the goal is to have at least 100 million doses in production “by the end of the year.”

A “strategic distribution overview” released Wednesday says the federal government will work with state and local partners to promote the vaccine to the public and ensure they are transported safety through their contractor, McKesson Corporation.

Officials said they’re working to make sure no one “pays a dime” out of pocket to get the vaccine, though health providers will be reimbursed for their work by private insurers or government programs.

The goal is “to be able to vaccine the American public with the goal of achieving immunity to the point where there is no longer sustained transmission of this virus,” Dr. Redfield said.

President Trump says a vaccine may be available by Election Day, raising fears of political influence as scientists predict a longer runaway to some form of approval as late-stage trials test candidates from drugmakers Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

Administration officials have repeatedly said the process is divorced from politics, and they will only approve a safe vaccine. They are seeking to approve the shots and distribute them at record-breaking speed — development of vaccines usually takes years.

“It’s a herculean task,” said Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, who oversees logistics for the federal vaccine effort known as Operation Warp Speed.

Once a vaccine is available, the expectation is to send the first doses to health workers who may be exposed to infected patients and then to essential workers who cannot socially distance on the job, such as food-distribution employees and teachers and school staff.

Officials said this first wave will be dictated by a “highly controlled” distribution system to ensure shots “get to the right groups based on policies and science.”

Another key priority will be tracking supply to make sure regions do not have too little — or too much — of the vaccine compared to demand.

Officials also highlighted “traceability,” since some of the candidates require two doses of vaccine. They must be able to notify recipients when it is time to receive the second dose. The shots must match, too.

The administration is testing IT systems to make sure a person who receives the first dose in, say, Pennsylvania, can walk into a health provider’s office and get the right second dose if that person is on vacation in Florida and needs a CVS employee to call up their records.

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