The Health 202: Hundreds of millions of coronavirus vaccine doses will be ready in early 2021, officials say
“We are on the brink of seeing the fruits of our labor,” said Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer for Operation Warp Speed, the initiative created by the administration to get a safe vaccine approved and distributed as quickly as possible.
The administration is working on two parallel tracks to get a vaccine approved and ready to distribute.
Perna said he, along with Warp Speed chief Moncef Slaoui, recently visited the Tennessee offices of McKesson, the major vaccine distributor that has contracted with the government to head up distribution of eventual coronavirus vaccines.
“At the end of the day I chose [McKesson] because they know how to do it,” Perna said.
Once the Food and Drug Administration approves a coronavirus vaccine for emergency use — expected to happen in late November or early December if trials continue going well — McKesson will partner with FedEx and UPS, along with a number of pharmacies and grocery stores including Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and Kroger, to get the doses shipped around the country, Perna said.
The Defense Department is closely involved in the effort, prompting concerns that an agency not accustomed to delivering vaccines might be charged with the critical task. Perna insisted, however, that the department is helping with logistics and program support — not distribution.
“There will not be this vision some people have of army trucks driving through the street delivering vaccine,” he told listeners on the online forum. “This is not feasible nor the proper way to do this.”
States also have a role to play. They’ve all submitted to the federal government plans for distributing a vaccine, with varying standards for who should get a vaccine first and how quickly the process should move.
New Jersey, for example, wants to administer the vaccine 70 percent of non-pregnant adults within six months. Nebraska laid out two initial phases of vaccine distribution in which the vaccine first goes to medical staff and later to the elderly and people with underlying conditions.
The vaccine news couldn’t come at a more critical time as cases of the novel coronavirus are surging across the country – and public health officials warn things could deteriorate further over the winter. Trump, however, continues to insist the country is “rounding the corner” in the disease as the election approaches next Tuesday, and his chief of staff said this weekend that the virus could only be controlled through a vaccine and therapeutics.
The process is moving with unprecedented speed, but there are plenty of challenges.
For one thing, vaccines require cold storage. Medical professionals distributing a vaccine will also need equipment including needles, syringes, alcohol, pads, bandages and masks.
And government officials say it’s critical to track who is getting the vaccine and where. Five of the six vaccines being developed as part of Warp Speed — excluding the vaccine being developed by Johnson & Johnson — require two doses. People who receive a first dose will need to be given the same vaccine in their second
courtesy Rosie Davis Mary Castro (left) and Rosie Davis
Rosie Davis remembers first growing worried about her mother in March, as cases of a mysterious new virus spread through the United States — slowly, at first, and then faster and faster and faster.
Davis’ mom, Mary Castro, was then living in a nursing home in Dallas. Long-term care facilities like Castro’s had become troubling sites of outbreaks in the emerging novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Castro — a former nurse who put herself through school while working graveyard shifts at a hospital and raising her kids as a single mom — was at increased risk.
Her health had begun to decline in recent years. Still, she remained alert and curious, always attentive during visits with her daughter, who made the 10-minute trip every day.
By the time coronavirus cases were confirmed around Dallas in March, Castro’s nursing home went into a complete lockdown. Davis, a 44-year-old aesthetician, continued visiting her mother but they were now separated by a glass window.
When Davis arrived on Mother’s Day, in May, she says she immediately noticed “something was really wrong” with Castro.
“She was not very alert. We had to tap on the window to get her attention. She couldn’t hold her own gift,” Davis says. “That was a big red flag for me.”
“At this time, there was still no mask mandate in Dallas County,” Davis says of her mom. “She had a mask on but it was just looped around her earlobes, not covering her mouth or nose.”
Davis says she asked the nursing home, where there had been prior coronavirus cases, to examine her mom. But her pleas were unsuccessful. Eventually, she took it upon herself to call 911.
An ambulance arrived, and Davis said goodbye. The memory still makes her emotional.
“The last image I have of my mom was her being lifted into the back of an ambulance,” she tells PEOPLE.
Castro did not die quickly, but she did die alone.
Davis called multiple times each day that Castro was hospitalized. By May 16, a nurse said her mom was alert enough to speak on the phone.
“It was a breath of fresh air to hear her voice … She said, ‘Have the restrictions been lifted yet? I’m really tired and I don’t want to be in here anymore,’ ” Davis says. “And I told her, ‘I’m so sorry that I can’t be with you.’ “
“I believe she knew she was going to die,” Davis says now. “She told me, ‘I just want you to know I love you. I’m very proud of you and you’ve been the best daughter to me.’ Her last words to me were, ‘When you get to heaven, we’re going to look for each other.’ “
RELATED: Trump Says He Won’t Wear a Face Mask in Public Despite Federal Health Officials’ Recommendation
courtesy Rosie Davis Mary Castro (center, behind glass) at her Dallas nursing home
The coronavirus killed her the next
A nurse saw a Chesapeake doctor do questionable things for years. She also got gifts totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Margo Stone did a little bit of everything over the nearly three decades that she worked for Dr. Javaid Perwaiz.
Her job titles included nurse, office administrator, and bookkeeper. She assisted Perwaiz in the examining rooms, checked patient’s blood pressure and weight, ordered supplies, paid bills, recorded deposits, and handled the payroll and payroll taxes.
She also had a romantic relationship with the longtime obstetrician-gynecologist now on trial for more than 60 criminal charges in U.S. District Court in Norfolk.
Prosecutors allege that Perwaiz, 70, performed unneeded work on patients for years in order to fund a lavish lifestyle. He’s charged with multiple counts of health care fraud, making false statements related to health care matters and identity theft. His jury trial began Wednesday and could last more than a month.
Stone told jurors she first started working part-time as a nurse for Perwaiz in the early 1990s and later became a full-time employee. Over the years, her responsibilities grew. So, too, did her relationship with the doctor.
He spent lots of time with Stone, her husband and two sons, Stone testified. He became a kind of grandfather figure for the boys, now in their 20s. He paid for the boys’ high school and college tuitions and bought the oldest son a car. The boys eventually started calling him Papa.
Perwaiz hung the boys’ framed portraits on the walls of his office and put their initials on the license plate of one of his cars.
Stone also got lots of gifts from the doctor. She estimated that he gave her about 10 watches, each valued at $2,000. She also got purses, sunglasses, and jewelry. She even shared an American Express card with him that she used to buy things for herself and her sons.
When asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Butler to estimate the total value of the gifts that Perwaiz gave her over the years, her response: “Several hundred thousand dollars.”
And while Stone testified that she would have stopped working for the doctor immediately if she ever thought he did anything that would put a patient’s safety in jeopardy, she said she saw him do some things that were questionable.
One day when she was filling in at the main office, she said she saw him examining a patient with an instrument that was broken. She immediately ordered a new part for it.
When staff complained that he wasn’t sterilizing a piece of equipment for the recommended amount of time, she said she confronted him and he agreed to wait in the future. And when she heard patients complain about having to undergo too many surgeries, she confronted him about that, too.
“Sometimes he seemed to listen, sometimes he did not,” she said.
Stone also said she knew that he wasn’t using some instruments properly and occasionally saw him alter information on patients records.
In other testimony Friday, two of Perwaiz’s former patients told jurors how the doctor recommended they get a hysterectomy after they