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US sets out plans to distribute free coronavirus vaccines

Published on 17/09/20 at 12:09pm
Photo by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America

The Trump administration has laid out its strategy to distribute COVID-19 vaccines for free across the US. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense (DoD) coordinated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to release documents that outline what steps they will take to ensure all states have access to potential vaccines. 

They organisations have laid out the four tasks necessary for a successful COVID-19 vaccine programme: 

  • Engage with state, tribal, territorial, and local partners, other stakeholders, and the public to communicate public health information around the vaccine and promote vaccine confidence and uptake. 
  • Distribute vaccines immediately upon granting of Emergency Use Authorization/Biologics License Application, using a transparently developed, phased allocation methodology and CDC has made vaccine recommendations. 
  • Ensure safe administration of the vaccine and availability of administration supplies.
  • Monitor necessary data from the vaccination program through an information technology (IT) system capable of supporting and tracking distribution, administration, and other necessary data.

Alex Azar, the HHS Secretary, said: “As part of Operation Warp Speed, we have been laying the groundwork for months to distribute and administer a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it meets FDA’s gold standard. This in-depth, round-the-clock planning work with our state and local partners and trusted community organizations, especially through CDC, will ensure that Americans can receive a safe and effective vaccine in record time.”

In terms of pricing, Paul Mango, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy at the HHS, said it's the government’s aspiration that no Americans pay a “single dime out of pocket” to get access to the vaccine. 

Despite the drive to make the vaccine widely available and free, getting Americans to voluntarily vaccinate may be a problem. Anti-vaxx sentiment has been visible in the country for decades, with President Trump, Robert DeNiro and Robert Kennedy Jr all sharing worries about vaccines being linked to the development of autism in children. This belief comes from a widely debunked 1998 study by Andrew Wakefield. However, there is also more general skepticism due to the politicisation of the vaccine by the Trump administration. An August Gallup poll found 35% of Americans said they had no intention of being vaccinated against the virus, and a CNN poll found 40% shared the same sentiment.  

Conor Kavanagh

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