Free coronavirus vaccines for all: Trump administration submits 'playbook' for unprecedented effort to inoculate Americans

Plan to distribute vaccines across America is ‘much larger in scope and complexity’ than the seasonal influenza programme, government planners write

Griffin Connolly
Wednesday 16 September 2020 16:21
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The US government has issued its strategy to vaccinate millions of Americans for Covid-19 for free beginning in early 2021, or possibly later this year.

The plan to inoculate the US population from the coronavirus -- which has cost taxpayers billions of dollars as the Trump administration has sought to expedite testing and mass production -- hinges on Americans actually going to get their shots.

Polling from earlier this year has shown roughly just half of Americans saying they would get the Covid-19 vaccine, with others expressing doubts about a future vaccine's safety.

At times this summer, Donald Trump has promised a vaccine and treatments for the disease on a much more ambitious timeline than doctors and leading health officials -- an apparent attempt by the president to pressure scientists to rush development processes.

Several Democratic lawmakers and health officials outside the federal government have expressed open skepticism over the safety of various treatments and a potential vaccine due to the president's leadership and perceived politicisation of the programme.

The national vaccination plan released to Congress on Wednesday, along with a "playbook" for states and local governments, outlined an unprecedented effort to inoculate the masses, with the Department of Defense helping distribute vaccines across the country to the civilian health workers who would administer it, The Associated Press has reported.

The vaccination programme is "much larger in scope and complexity than seasonal influenza or other previous outbreak-related vaccination responses," the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote in its playbook for states and localities.

Mass vaccination would not happen all at once, but rather in multiple phases. In the first phase, health care workers, essential employees, and Americans in vulnerable age groups and with preexisting conditions would receive the vaccine. The programme would then open up to all Americans in the second and third phases, according to the plan, a process that would likely take months. For most vaccines, Americans will need to receive two doses, 21 to 28 days apart, from the same drugmaker.

The federal government has left it up to states and local governments to formulate their own plans for storing and distributing the vaccine doses. They must submit those plans to the feds a month from now.

Millions of Americans remain deeply skeptical about a federally aided vaccine amid the Trump administration's politicisation of public health information.

Mr Trump has spouted baseless accusations of about a "deep state" conspiracy to prevent the rapid production of a Covid-19 vaccine by the 3 November election, even though every leading government scientist has said it would be an unprecedented success to have a vaccine ready to distribute to the masses by early next year.

The US government has sunk billions of dollars into the largescale manufacturing of vaccine candidates that have not yet been proven safe or effective so that if they are approved, Americans can receive them en masse right away. If a vaccine candidate is deemed ineffective, doses will be destroyed. The programme, nicknamed Operation Warp Speed, aims to inoculate hundreds of millions of Americans by early next year.

The Food and Drug Administration is currently testing six vaccine candidates for their effectiveness, including three that are already being tested on humans.

Senate Democrats sought assurances last week from National Institutes of Health Director Francis S Collins and US Surgeon General Jerome Adams about the safety of a future vaccine in light of Mr Trump's "deep state" comments.

"We need vaccine confidence, and political interference can be a huge detriment to that. So can misinformation," said Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee ranking member Patty Murray of Washington.

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