State health officials are frustrated by a lack of federal support to receive and distribute the first doses of coronavirus vaccine by November 15, even though one isn’t likely to be approved until later this year. States say they cannot pay for such an enormous undertaking.
States have been planning for weeks to get and give shots, even though no one knows which vaccine will be authorized by the FDA, what special storage and handling will be required, and how much they will receive.
Still the CDC is urging states to get prepared to preposition doses in “key areas” throughout the country, according to a letter sent to state preparedness and immunization officials earlier this week.
A CDC panel advises which populations should be vaccinated, and is asking states to identity their top five sites capable of receiving, storing at ultracold temperatures, and administering the shots. The letter refers to “Vaccine A” but industry and health officials have identified it as Pfizer’s candidate.
Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla said Tuesday that “hundreds of thousands” of doses had already been produced and that a first look at the data would occur soon. Pfizer will not apply for any authorization of its vaccine sooner than the third week of November, when it will have sufficient safety data.
“It is absolutely ridiculous that the administration, after spending $10 billion for a Warp Speed effort to develop a vaccine, has no interest in a similar investment in a Warp Speed campaign to get the vaccine to every American as quickly as possible after it is approved,” said Michael Fraser, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
“The now accelerated timeline underscores the need to address the issue of funding for state and territorial health agencies to make this all work,” Fraser said. “There are many other costs that have no clear way to be paid for at this point.”
States have received $200 million for planning, but are asking Congress for $8 billion for coronavirus vaccination and an addition $500 million for influenza vaccination efforts.
The CDC intends to send states an additional $140 million before the end of the year, according to an HHS official who wanted to remain anonymous due to an announcement pending.
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