States face unique challenges with vaccine distribution

States face unique challenges with vaccine distribution
CBSNews

Health officials predict that by June there will be enough COVID-19 vaccine in circulation to dose the entire U.S. population. But how and when vaccines actually get distributed — which could start as early as next week — will be left up to the states.

With the first FDA approval likely just days away, each state faces unique challenges for distribution — with some concern there may not be enough for all frontline health care workers to be quickly vaccinated.

"Each state is going to make their call," Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed, told CBS News' Dr. Jon LaPook.

The operation is tasked with distributing coronavirus vaccines to every state. When he spoke to CBS News earlier in the week, Slaoui said each state would receive a certain number of doses based on population.

"Every single vial of vaccine will be coded and tracked, and we will understand where it went when it was manufactured, what was the quality control data of it, who got immunized from that vial," he said. "When it is used, the data will be entered into the state system, which then connects into the central system."

For increased security, Slaoui said each dose would come with a card in the vaccine "ancillary pack" containing a syringe with a needle, alcohol, gloves and a mask for those administering the vaccine.

Pfizer and Moderna are expected to provide a total of about 40 million doses of their respective vaccines by the end of the year, enough to give up to 20 million people the required two doses.

A CDC advisory committee recommended that the first doses be given to the approximately 21 million health care personnel in the U.S., with another 3 million going to residents of long-term care facilities.

In some states, however, there may not be enough supply. For example, 51,000 doses are required to vaccinate health care workers in Minnesota, but only 19,000 doses are expected to be made available to the state before the end of the year.

In California, where portions of the state may face renewed stay-at-home orders due to a surge of coronavirus cases, seven hospitals are slated to be among the first to receive the Pfizer vaccine, which requires ultra-cold storage.

The state is expected to receive 327,000 doses by mid-December, with acute care workers in the first tier of recipients.

Dr. Arthur Reingold, who leads California's coronavirus vaccine workgroup, said vaccine priority will vary state-to-state.

"If you have a state, for example, with a lot of meatpacking plants, you may decide that they're a really important place to vaccinate early," Reingold said. "Other places may decide that the highest priority should be people living in nursing homes."

While states figure out how to roll out vaccines, some people are still worried about their safety, as they're being developed in record time amid a contentious political landscape.

However, Operation Warp Speed adviser Moncef Slaoui assured Americans in an earlier interview that his office's stamp of approval is "the highest standard of scientific evidence."

"Two vaccines from two competing companies, using similar technology but totally independently developed, ending up having the same vaccine efficacy, the same kind of performance, provide reassurance — enormous reassurance — that these data are real and lasting," Slaoui said.

He pleaded with the public to keep an open mind.

"Please, please don't let yourself be biased," Slaoui said. "Just open up your mind, look at the facts, look at the data and then make up your mind."

An FDA advisory committee will review the Pfizer vaccine on December 10. The Moderna vaccine is expected to be reviewed the following week.

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