PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The federal government released broad plans Wednesday aimed at distributing free COVID-19 vaccines within a day after an emergency use authorization or full approval is granted. That could happen by November but is more likely in January.
Local health departments received the new federal guidance Wednesday morning.
The documents give local health departments 30 days to submit plans for receiving and distributing a COVID-19 vaccine. So by Oct. 16, the feds want all the logistics in place.
There’s now a detailed playbook for Operation Warp Speed to quickly distribute a free COVID-19 vaccine as soon as one is cleared within 24 hours.
Federal health agencies and the Defense Department delivered the sweeping plans to Congress Wednesday. That includes instructions for local agencies to have their distribution plans ready by mid-October.
“I’m glad to see that there is a plan being released. It’s in line with a lot of what we are been preparing for,” said Caryelle Lasher, with the Camden County Department of Health and Human Services.
Lasher says the federal plan calls for the vaccine distribution to start in January and be more widely available in mid-2021. But the first batches could be out sooner.
“I think there will be a vaccine that initially will be available sometime between November and December,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield.
“As soon as the vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective, we’ll be ready to distribute,” Lasher said.
The COVID-19 vaccine would be free and would be given in two doses 21 to 28 days apart. Because of limited initial supplies, it would first go to health and essential workers.
There is polling that shows a good number of Americans are concerned about safety, and many are saying they are not going to get the vaccine.
“It concerns me. Vaccine hesitancy is a historical problem that we have in public health. Unfortunately, we lose a lot of community protection in a lack of participation,” Lasher said.
That community protection can’t be achieved unless about 70% of the country gets the vaccine.
Lasher says it’s unfortunate the vaccine has become politicized with timing so close to the election.
In terms of distribution, she says it will be similar to the drive-thru testing sites. Vaccines would be given in large, easily-accessible locations but a database has to be established to track the distribution.