The United States plans to begin distributing coronavirus vaccine within 24 hours of one being approved, federal officials said Wednesday.
It’s an audacious goal in an already franticly paced COVID-19 vaccine development and distribution program being overseen by the White House’s aptly-named Operation Warp Speed.
The goal is that 24 hours after a license or an Emergency Use Authorization is issued “we have vaccine moving to administration sites,” Lt. Gen. Paul A. Ostrowski, Operation Warp Speed deputy chief of supply, production and distribution, said on a media call Wednesday morning.
The initial rollout could begin as early as late this year or January.
The announcement came as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a 56-page “playbook” outlining details of how the vaccine will be distributed to medical providers nationally.
The vaccine initially will be in short supply and will go to the most vulnerable, CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield testified to the Senate appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies later on Wednesday.
“If you’re asking me, ‘When is it going to be available to the American public so we can begin to take advantage of vaccines to get back to our regular life?’ I think we’re probably looking at late second quarter, third quarter 2021,” he said.
The vaccine will be available to any American who wants it regardless of ability to pay, assured officials. The vaccine itself, as well as the syringes and other equipment, will be distributed by and paid for by the U.S. government, the officials said.
An administration fee, basically a fee for giving the shot, can be charged by doctors’ offices, clinics and pharmacies but will either be paid for by private insurance, Medicaid, or federal funding.
There are still details to be worked out with Medicare fee-for-service providers. In the worst case, it will cost $3.50 per shot “but we’re working on that,” said Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff for policy in the office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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In a report to Congress and the accompanying “playbook” for states and localities, federal health agencies and the Department of Defense outlined complex plans for the vaccination campaign. It will begin slowly in January or potentially late in 2020 with the presumption that initially vaccine supplies will be limited. Within months, as more vaccine becomes available, the shots will be offered to every American who wants one.
Distribution will be through McKesson, a medical distribution company, working with the Pentagon for logistical and IT support. All shots will be given by civilian health workers, in health departments, clinics, hospitals, doctor’s offices and pharmacies.
The campaign is “much larger in scope and complexity than seasonal influenza or other previous outbreak-related vaccination responses,” according to the playbook.
Among the highlights:
• Most of the candidate vaccines require two doses. Some must be given 21 days apart, others 28. The second dose must be from the same vaccine manufacturer. It’s anticipated that eventually several vaccines from different manufacturers will be approved and available.
• Health workers, other essential employees, and people in vulnerable groups will be allocated vaccine first. The National Academy of Medicine and the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices are creating plans for who will be first in line.
• State and local health departments will need to devise precise plans for receiving and locally distributing vaccines. All but one of the vaccines must be shipped frozen and one, from Pfizer, must be shipped at minus 94 degrees.
• Each state has one month to submit its distribution plan.
Contributing: Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: COVID vaccine: Deliveries will start 24 hours after first one approved