Trump administration accused of failing to plan for rollout of coronavirus vaccine

“We have not heard anything from the federal government since 23 April,” official says

Graig Graziosi
Friday 31 July 2020 21:27 BST
Dr Fauci says he is 'cautiously optimistic' that a coronavirus vaccine is possible this year

US health officials and state politicians are growing increasingly concerned that the Donald Trump White House is not prepared to oversee and execute a coronavirus vaccine rollout.

Danielle Koeing told Reuters that her requests for information to the federal government have been unanswered since April.

“We have not heard anything from the federal government since 23 April,” she said.

On 23 June, immunisation experts sent a joint letter alongside state and local public health officials to Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s vaccine research initiative, pleading for guidance.

Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunisation Managers, represents one of the four organisations that signed the letter.

“We urgently await federal, state and local collaborative discussions to identify challenges and plan solutions. A vaccination campaign of this magnitude is unprecedented and it’s going to take more than an army,” Ms Hannan said.

“More than an army” is a reference to Mr Trump’s claim that the US military would be used to distribute the vaccines.

The Trump administration insists that the necessary logistics for a vaccine rollout are already in place.

“We’re all set to march when it comes to the vaccine ... And the delivery system is all set. Logistically we have a general that’s all he does is deliver things whether it is soldiers or other items,” Mr Trump said.

“We are way ahead on vaccines, way ahead on therapeutics and when we have it we are all set with our platforms to deliver them very, very quickly.”

Mr Trump’s assurances provide little relief for state leaders left in the dark.

Not only are state leaders and health officials concerned about logistics, they also want to understand who will receive the vaccine first.

It’s unlikely there will be enough vaccine doses available to inoculate the totality of the US population all at once. Decisions must be made on what populations will receive the vaccine first.

Even with an efficient distribution plan in place, health officials fear sceptical segments of the public will be unwilling to take the vaccine once it is ready for use.

During a Senate hearing on 2 July, Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said a public outreach programme to establish trust in the vaccine would be necessary ahead of any successful rollout.

Roy Blunt, a Republican Senator who chairs a panel overseeing health programme funding, is pushing for the CDC to direct any future vaccine distribution efforts.

“They are the only federal agency with a proven track record of vaccine distribution and long-standing agreements with health departments across the country,” Mr Blunt said.

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