CDC sends plans to states for COVID-19 vaccine distribution by early November

The CDC has sent three documents to all 50 states telling them how to prepare to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as late October or early November, The New York Times reported. 

The documents outline technical scenarios to state public health officials for the distribution of two potential COVID-19 vaccines, referred to as Vaccine A and Vaccine B. The descriptions of the vaccine seem to match the vaccines being developed by Pfizer and Moderna, according to the Times. They are the two vaccines furthest along in late-stage clinical trials. 

The accelerated timeline has raised concern that the government is trying to rush distribution of a vaccine before election day on Nov. 3, according to the Times. The three documents were sent to states Aug. 27, the same day President Donald Trump said in his speech at the Republican National Convention that a COVID-19 vaccine may be available before the end of the year. 

"This timeline of the initial deployment at the end of October is deeply worrisome for the politicization of public health and the potential safety ramifications," Saskia Popescu, PhD, an infection prevention epidemiologist based in Arizona, told the Times. "It's hard not to see this as a push for a pre-election vaccine."

The CDC acknowledged that the plans are hypothetical, saying, "The Covid-19 vaccine landscape is evolving and uncertain, and these scenarios may evolve as more information is available."

Approving a vaccine before late-stage clinical trial data is available could lead to rare but dangerous side effects surfacing over a period of time, the Times reported. 

The plans detail requirements for shipping, mixing, administration and storage of a potential vaccine. They say that healthcare professionals would be among the first to receive a vaccine, along with other essential workers and national security employees. People over 65, people from racial and ethnic minority populations, and incarcerated people are also prioritized in the documents. 

The documents predict that Vaccine A will have about 2 million doses ready by early November and Vaccine B will have about 1 million doses ready, according to the Times.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said Sept. 3 that the documents have nothing to do with the presidential election, CNBC reported. 

"It has nothing to do with elections. This has to do with delivering safe, effective vaccines to the American people as quickly as possible and saving people's lives," Mr. Azar said in an interview with CBS. "Whether it's Oct. 15, whether it's Nov. 1, whether it's Nov. 15, it's all about saving lives but meeting the FDA standards of safety and efficacy."

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