WASHINGTON — Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sent a letter last week to the nation’s governors with an urgent request. The Trump administration wanted them to do everything in their power to eliminate hurdles for vaccine distribution sites to be fully operational by Nov. 1.
The Aug. 27 letter, obtained by McClatchy, asked governors to fast-track permits and licenses for new distribution sites.
It was the latest hurried federal request of state governments to prepare for the arrival of a vaccine for COVID-19, the pandemic disease that has killed roughly 185,000 Americans.
Last month, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, a top CDC official, warned that state public health departments are “running out of time” to draft plans for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines — and requested that states submit proposals by Oct. 1.
Delivery firms have received guidance from Trump administration officials to prepare freezer farms in the middle of the country and get ready to load vaccines onto trucks no later than Nov. 1.
The rush is putting pressure on state health systems already strapped for resources — and appears out of sync with the progress of clinical trials for coronavirus vaccines, which are still recruiting volunteers who will test the safety and effectiveness of the drugs.
Some supply chain experts are expressing concern that Trump administration officials with Operation Warp Speed, the federal program accelerating vaccine development, have failed to adequately communicate the responsibilities that state and local governments will take on once the task of distributing a COVID-19 vaccine is upon them.
“At this point, we should know much more about what the intended distribution system looks like, and what the plan is,” said Dr. Julie Swann, head of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at North Carolina State University and an adviser to the CDC during its response to the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.
The first vaccines most likely to emerge from Phase III clinical trials will pose exceptional challenges to public health officials, requiring storage in subzero temperatures and two doses per individual spread weeks apart.
Others have expressed concern that the timeline set out by Operation Warp Speed — setting a deadline that would offer the first vaccines just days before the presidential election — is motivated by politics over science.
Warp Speed officials have told reporters to expect an “overwhelming” public messaging campaign come November.
Wes Wheeler, president of UPS Healthcare, said in an interview that guidance from the administration is to be ready to put the vaccine on trucks by Nov. 1.
Dr. Larry Corey, who is co-leading the coronavirus vaccine clinical trials for the COVID-19 Prevention Network under the National Institutes of Health, told McClatchy this week that he does not expect results from the trials to be ready for approval or delivery by that time.
Copyright 2020 Tribune Content Agency.
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