A COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan aims to begin delivering doses in January with no out-of-pocket costs to patients, a Health and Human Services playbook released Wednesday states.
“I think there will be vaccine that will be initially available sometime between November and December, but very limited supply and it will need to be prioritized,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a Wednesday hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Redfield said the vaccine then will become available to the general population in the third quarter of 2021.
The 11-page overview and 57-page plan developed by the departments of Health and Human Services and Defense are intended to assist state, tribal, territorial and other local public health programs.
HHS broke down the process into first communicating with local officials to promote the vaccine, distributing it, ensuring the reliability of the supply chain and monitoring the vaccine’s administration.
Vaccines will be delivered to a number of locations including doctors offices and retail pharmacies, according to the plan, and no American will be charged for either the COVID-19 vaccine or its distribution.
Delivery will happen in phases, starting in a targeted manner with the goal of increasing vaccine acceptance followed by providing widespread access and high uptake in at-risk populations.
Operation Warp Speed has aimed to produce 6.6 million supply kits, which would support the vaccination of up to 660 million doses of vaccine.
The COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be distributed swiftly after an emergency use authorization or Biologics License Application approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
Redfield cautioned that it’s still unclear what it will take for herd immunity to be achieved so that the virus is contained.
“Scientifically for COVID-19, we don’t know exactly what the level of immunity would be required to interrupt sustained transmission or what you would call herd immunity,” Redfield said.
The HHS plan requires states and localities to submit plans to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by Oct. 16.
In Massachusetts, the allocation, order processing and tracking of the COVID vaccine will be done through the Massachusetts Immunization Information System, according to the Department of Public Health.
DPH is using the Infectious Disease Emergency Response plan to develop COVID vaccine operations.
Congressmen in Wednesday’s hearing drilled down on the vaccine timeline, noting that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said a vaccine could be ready “potentially by the end of September,” which contradicts the HHS plan and the timeline provided by Redfield.
In other HHS news, top spokesman Michael Caputo is taking a leave of absence, the government announced Wednesday.
Caputo, a fierce Trump loyalist, apologized on Tuesday to his staff for a Facebook video in which he reportedly said scientists battling the coronavirus are conspiring against President Trump and warned of shooting in America if Trump were to lose the November election.
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