Currently, dozens of experimental COVID-19 vaccines are being developed in the United States and throughout the world, including seven vaccine candidates funded by the U.S. government, according to a report by the Statesman Journal. Two of the seven vaccines are in Phase 3 clinical trials, which now begs the question: how will the vaccine be distributed, and who will be first to receive it when it’s available?
The vaccine distribution process will be run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which ran the last national vaccination effort during the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009.
“We’re happy to see CDC front and center,” Dr. Kelly Moore, associate director of immunization education with the Immunization Action Coalition, said to the Statesman Journal. “They’re the right organization to be leading this.”
In the initial phases of distribution, all the vaccines will be purchased by the U.S. government, and no one will be charged for the actual dose. And while the CDC is still finalizing who will be first to receive the vaccine, it appears that front-line medical works, first-responders, and high risk individuals will be first in line.
When the vaccine becomes available, medical offices, clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, and others who want to vaccinate individuals for COVID-19 will have to enroll in the U.S. COVID-19 vaccination program, where they will sign an agreement with CDC to ensure they have the space and equipment to administer the dosages. National pharmaceutical chains like Walgreens and CVS could also partner with the CDC.
However, the two vaccines in Phase 3 trials must be stored in freezers, ultimately complicating who exactly will be able to properly store, handle, and administer the medicine.
“States are currently surveying their systems to know where their sub-80 (Celsius) freezers are,” Julie Swann, a professor of industrial and systems engineering at North Carolina State University, said to the Statesman Journal. “I would expect that kind of cold storage to be available at large hospitals, scientific research facilities and some large pharmacies.”
Although a vaccine has not yet been approved, Moore stressed the importance of setting up the systems of distribution now.
“Planning now allows us to identify the glitches in our process now,” Moore said. “We can’t wait until a vaccine is approved.”
By Jada Krening