Public health officials across the country have been advised to prepare for the potential distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as late October or early November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.
A vaccine for the coronavirus has yet to be developed. However, should that happen, the CDC said in guidance sent to health officials last week that limited amounts would first be distributed to health care workers and members of other high-risk groups.
The supply would “increase substantially” over the next year, according to the guidance first published by The New York Times, which was reportedly sent to health officials in all 50 states as well as those in several major cities on Aug. 27.
Should a potential vaccine be proven effective and safe by the end of October, roughly 2 million doses would be released. Another 10-20 million doses would be released by the end of November, and 20-30 million more by the end of December, the CDC guidance states of one potential, hypothetical scenario intended for planning purposes only.
CDC Director Robert Redfield has also directly asked states to speed up the approval process for building permits for vaccine distribution sites, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing a letter he sent to the states, also on Aug. 27.
“CDC urgently requests your assistance in expediting applications for these distribution facilities, and, if necessary, asks that you consider waiving requirements that would prevent these facilities from becoming fully operational by Nov. 1, 2020,” his letter read.
A CDC spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of the documents published by the Times, as well as Redfield’s letter.
“COVID-19 vaccination program plans must be flexible and accommodate multiple scenarios based on what we’ve heard from vaccine manufactures,” the spokesperson said in an email to HuffPost. “For the purpose of initial planning, CDC provided states with certain planning assumptions as they work on state specific plans for vaccine distribution, including possibly having limited quantities of vaccines in October and November.”
Redfield’s letter, along with the vaccine distribution guidance, went out the same day President Donald Trump announced at the Republican National Convention that a coronavirus vaccine may be available before the end of the year.
“We are delivering lifesaving therapies and will produce a vaccine before the end of the year — or maybe even sooner,” he said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases ― who has frequently been at odds with Trump over the virus’ handling and prognosis ― told NBC’s “Today” on Wednesday that he believes a “safe and effective vaccine” will be developed “by the time we get to the end of this calendar year.”
Fauci made no mention of when it may be distributed but he did suggest that he would be open to allowing an unapproved vaccine to be used under an Emergency Use Authorization, so long as there’s enough data showing it’s “safe and effective for the American public.”
Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, told the Financial Times in an interview published Monday that he would be willing to authorize a COVID-19 vaccine for use before Phase 3 clinical trials were complete as long as the benefits outweigh the risks. He insisted that this authorization was not for the sake of Trump, who faces reelection in early November.
Fauci criticized Russia last month for skipping the final large-scale clinical trial of its promoted COVID-19 vaccine.
“Having a vaccine” and “proving that a vaccine is safe and effective are two different things,” Fauci told ABC News in response to news of Russia’s decision to skip the final large-scale clinical trial.
“I hope that the Russians have actually, definitively proven that the vaccine is safe and effective,” Fauci said. “I seriously doubt that they’ve done that.”