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The Trump administration has unveiled a plan to ensure every American who wants one can get a COVID-19 vaccine free of charge when one becomes available, which could begin before year’s end.
The plan has been put together by the Defense Department and federal health authorities and has been presented as a report to Congress as well as a “playbook” for states and local governments, The Associated Press reported.
The DoD and federal agencies associated with the plan are looking at potentially beginning the vaccination process in January but it is still possible that it could actually start later this year.
“We are working closely with our state and local public health partners … to ensure that Americans can receive the vaccine as soon as possible and vaccinate with confidence,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a statement, according to the AP.
After the most vulnerable populations were given the opportunity to be vaccinated, the program would be rolled out to the general population, officials said.
According to the playbook from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine campaign will be “much larger in scope and complexity than seasonal influenza or other previous outbreak-related vaccination responses.”
“Immunization with a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is a critical component of the United States strategy to reduce COVID-19-related illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths and to help restore societal functioning,” says an executive summary of the playbook.
“The goal of the U.S. government is to have enough COVID-19 vaccine for all people in the United States who wish to be vaccinated,” the summary continues. “Early in the COVID-19 Vaccination Program, there may be a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine, and vaccination efforts may focus on those critical to the response, providing direct care, and maintaining societal function, as well as those at highest risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19.”
At present, there are a number of vaccine candidates proceeding through human trials, and many of them could eventually be approved for distribution. For now, there is an expectation that people would get two vaccines between 21 and 28 days apart.
The playbook presses vaccine providers to remind people to ensure they get their second dose and that it must come from the same vaccine maker as the first injection.
In July, the Trump administration approved a pair of vaccine candidates on a fast-track program made by Pfizer and European partner BioNTech.
“The FDA’s decision to grant these two COVID-19 vaccine candidates Fast Track designation signifies an important milestone in the efforts to develop a safe and effective vaccine against SARS-CoV-2,” Peter Honig, Pfizer senior vice president of global regulatory affairs, said.
The companies said then they expected to launch trials by month’s end involving 30,000 candidates.
President Donald Trump promised early on he would push his government to quickly develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus via “Operation Warp Speed.”
“We’re looking to get it by the end of the year if we can, maybe before,” Trump said in May when discussing the program.
In recent days, as the president has teased that a vaccine could even be ready before the election — though, apparently, not yet for mass distribution — leading Democrats and their supporters downplayed the notion that it would be effective, stoked mistrust, and accused Trump of using the vaccine as an election-year ploy.
“They [scientists] will be muzzled, they’ll be suppressed, they will be sidelined, because he’s looking at an election coming up in less than 60 days, and he’s grasping for whatever he can get to pretend that he’s been a leader on this issue when he’s not,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Joe Biden’s running mate, said earlier this month.
“I would not trust Donald Trump and it would have to be a credible source of information that talks about the efficacy and the reliability of whatever he’s talking about,” she added.
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