The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has instructed public health officials in all 50 U.S. states and five large cities to get ready to provide a viable COVID-19 vaccine to health care workers, in addition to other high-risk groups, according to an initial report from The New York Times.
The Times also said the vaccine could be ready as soon as late October or early November 2020.
The new guidance from the CDC is the latest hint of a rapidly-accelerating race to curate a vaccine and reverse the course of the COVID-19 pandemic that’s killed more than 184,000 Americans. The guiding documents came the same day President Trump said a vaccine might be available before the end of 2020, in a speech to the Republican National Convention.
There were threeseparate documents sent to public health officials in every U.S. state and territory, in addition to Chicago, New York, Houston, Philadelphia, and San Antonio on August 27. Together, they outlined different scenarios for distributing two as-yet-unidentified vaccine candidates – each one requiring two doses spaced weeks apart in hospitals, mobile clinics, and other facilities that provide easy access to initial recipients of the vaccine.
In the last week, both Stephen Hahn – head of the Food and Drug Administration, and Anthony S. Fauci – the nation’s lead infectious disease expert – have hinted about the possibility of vaccine availability for specific groups of people before clinical trials are finished, given the test data turns out to be positive.
Public health experts think agencies at all governmental levels should fully-commit to preparing for what will surely become a vast and painstaking effort to vaccinate hundreds of millions of Americans. However, the likelihood of a November rollout for the vaccine has also raised concern about the Trump administration pushing the distribution of the vaccine too quickly – or exaggerating a candidate vaccine’s effectiveness – before election day hits on Nov. 3, reports the Times.
The CDC will provide detailed technical specifications for two candidates called “Vaccine A” and “Vaccine B,” in addition to shipping, mixing, administration, and storage requirements, added the Times. As of writing the specifications sound like products developed by Moderna and Pfizer, two pharmaceutical companies that have gone the furthest in late-stage clinical trials.
On Aug. 20, Pfizer declared it was “on track” in its pursuit of government review, with a projected completion date “as early as October 2020.”
“This timeline of the initial deployment at the end of October is deeply worrisome for the politicization of public health and the potential safety ramifications,” said infection prevention epidemiologist Saskia Popescu in Arizona, to the Times. “It’s hard not to see this as a push for a pre-election vaccine.”
State guidance in the three documents mentioned above notes that health care professionals, in addition to long-term care employees, will be the first to receive the product, along with other national security employees and essential workers, said the Times.
Those 65 years old or older, including people from “racial and ethnic minority populations,” Native Americans, and citizens under incarceration – each a community at a disproportionately greater risk for contracting the virus and the severe illness that follows – were also listed as primary recipients of the vaccine, according to the documents.
This is good news because it means “it doesn’t just all wind up in high-income, affluent suburbs,” said Cedric Dark, a Baylor College of Medicine emergency physician in Texas, to the Times.
In its guidance, the CDC said “limited COVID-19 vaccine doses may be available by early November 2020,” reports the Times. The new documents were dispatched the same day that CDC Director Robert Redfield sent a letter to governors to prepare vaccine distribution sites by Nov. 1, reports McClatchy.
The CDC also stressed that plans for distributing the vaccine were still hypothetical, saying: “The COVID-19 vaccine landscape is evolving an…
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