State officials have been planning in earnest in recent weeks to get shots into arms even though no one knows which vaccine will be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, what special storage and handling may be required and how many doses each state will receive.
Despite those uncertainties, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking states to be prepared to “preposition” doses in key locations throughout the country. Officials want to move quickly once the FDA authorizes a vaccine and a CDC advisory panel issues recommendations on which populations should be vaccinated, according to a letter the CDC sent Monday to state preparedness and immunization officials.
As part of that effort, the CDC is asking states to provide by Tuesday critical information, including a list of each jurisdiction’s top five sites capable of receiving and administering a vaccine that must be stored at ultracold temperatures of minus-70 Celsius (minus-94 Fahrenheit). The letter refers to the vaccine only as 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.
“We acknowledge that you are being asked to do unprecedented work,” wrote Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, which is leading the CDC’s role in vaccine distribution. She added: “This is a new planning ask.”
State officials say they have been trying to raise the issue with federal officials but have received little response.
“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.
Operation Warp Speed is the federal initiative, funded by more than $10 billion of taxpayer money, to fast-track development of coronavirus countermeasures.
“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.”
Local officials still need to recruit thousands of people to staff vaccine clinics and enroll and train providers. They also have to ramp up information technology and data systems to track vaccine inventory and ordering to ensure people get the correct doses at the right times — most vaccines will require two shots — and to monitor for adverse events. They will need to develop locally tailored vaccination communications campaigns, too.
“States have received some funding, but it’s not nearly enough” to support the scale, scope and