WASHINGTON (Reuters): As scientists and pharmaceutical companies work at high speed to develop a vaccine for the new coronavirus, public health officials and senior U.S. lawmakers are alarming the Trump Administration’s lack of planning for its national distribution.
FACT SHEET: U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a speech during a tour of Fujifilm Innovation Center Diosynth Biotechnologies, a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant where components for a potential coronavirus vaccine (COVID) are being developed -19), in Morrrisville, North Carolina, USA, July 27, 2020. REUTERS / Carlos Barria / Photo File
The federal government has traditionally played a major role in funding and overseeing the manufacture and distribution of new vaccines, which are often used with scarce ingredients and need to be carefully stored, stored and transported.
There will not be enough vaccine for all 330 million Americans immediately, so the government also has a role to play in deciding who gets it first and educating a vaccine to be made public. here about its possible merits in saving lives.
Right now, it’s unclear who in Washington is in charge of overseeing, let alone critical details, some state health officials and members of Congress told Reuters.
Last week, a senior Trump administration official told Reuters that Operation Warp Speed, a White House working group first announced here in May, pledged to “implement the plan (vaccine ) and to distribute medical measures as quickly as possible. ”
However, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told a Senate hearing on July 2 that his agency would lead the campaign to develop and distribute a vaccine for new coronavirus. “This is the primary responsibility of the CDC,” he said.
Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, who chairs a jury overseeing funding the health care program, is one of several lawmakers who pushed for the CDC, founded in 1946 to fight malaria, to lead the effort.
“They are the only federal agency with a proven track record of vaccine distribution and long-term agreements with health departments across the country,” Blunt said in statements in mid-July.
THE REPEAT OF HISTORY?
The United States leads the world in COVID-related fatalities with more than 150,000 in five months. After underestimating the threat of the virus here, President Donald Trump and his advisers find themselves embroiled in internal battles over how to handle the crisis just three months before his re-election candidacy against Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
A July 15-21 Reuters / Ipsos poll showed that only 38% of the public supports Trump’s handling of the pandemic.
Health officials and lawmakers say they are concerned that without detailed planning and coordination with states, vaccine distribution could be seen with the same kind of disorders that led to chronic shortages of coronavirus diagnostic tests and other supplies. doctors.
Washington should educate people now about vaccination plans in order to build public confidence and avoid confusion, said Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the health program funding committee.
“What’s the priority, who gets it first? The first to respond, the nurses, that sort of thing,” Murray said in a phone interview. On July 13, Murray posted a roadmap here for vaccine distribution.
A poorly executed deployment would mean “we will be here two years ago, three years ahead, in the same economic and health position we are today,” he said.
STATES IN THE DARK
Meanwhile, some state public health officials say their requests to the Trump administration have gone unanswered.
“We haven’t heard anything from the federal government since April 23,” said Danielle Koenig, health promotion supervisor at the Washington state health department.
That’s when his agency received preliminary guidance on CDC vaccine planning.
Immunization experts along with state and local public health officials sent a letter to Operation Warp Speed on June 23 asking for new guidance.
States need to know quickly whether the federal government will pay for vaccines, as it did during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, the letter says. Will tampons, syringes and personal protective equipment be included? What about record keeping and refrigeration to store the vaccine and who will deliver it?
So far, there has been no official response, said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, one of the four organizations that signed the letter.
“We urgently look forward to federal, state and local collaboration discussions to identify challenges and plan solutions. A vaccination campaign of this magnitude is unprecedented and will need more than an army, “Hannan said Tuesday in reference to Trump’s repeated statements that the US military is ready to deliver the vaccines.
Trump insists everything is in place.
“We’re all willing to leave when it comes to the vaccine,” Trump said in a White House statement Thursday. “… And the delivery system is defined. Logistically we have a general that all he does is deliver things whether they are soldiers or other items.
“We’re way ahead of vaccines, ahead of therapeutics, and when we have it, we’re all together with our platforms to deliver them very quickly,” Trump said.
Report by Richard Cowan; Edited by Heather Timmons and Grant McCool