COVID-19 Update

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in coordination with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Defense (DoD) have released documents to health officials in all 50 states outlining the strategy for the distribution of a possible coronavirus vaccine. 

This strategy is a result of the efforts made by Operation Warp Speed. Operation Warp Speed is a partnership between the HHS and DoD, as well as other federal agencies and private firms that coordinate to help accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.

The “COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations” outlines a three-phased approach to the vaccination process. The first phase is set to begin as soon as a coronavirus vaccine is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Trump administration announced that they are hoping for that approval to come as soon as early November. 

With the limited supply of doses expected to be available in the first few months, Phase one distribution concentrates on what they have deemed critical populations that include healthcare professionals, higher risk individuals and essential workers. 

Phase two will begin as soon as a large number of vaccine doses become available for the general public, which is estimated to not be until January 2021 at the earliest. 

The final phase will begin as the demand for coronavirus vaccinations begins to decrease, resulting in a shift to open access to the vaccination and routine doses. 

Some people have begun questioning how the vaccine will be distributed fairly within the general population while doses are still limited. The CDC has reassured the distribution process will be fair and equitable, including in their plan that minority populations known to be at greater risk will receive priority access to the vaccine.

The looming possibility for widespread distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine is going to be a complex effort that will need the urgent preparation and cooperation of all levels of government in order to be a success. The Trump administration has struggled with the logistical challenges of containing the spread of coronavirus, so this daunting task of proper vaccine handling and allocation spreads concerns of effectiveness. 

Some health experts worry that the Trump administration is compromising scientific integrity by seeking to rush vaccine approval and distribution so that it occurs before Election Day on Nov. 3. This casts doubts on the President’s intentions and the safety of the vaccine.

A poll released by NPR in August found that 60 percent of Americans say they will choose to be vaccinated if a COVID-19 vaccine is made available to them and 35 percent would decline.

The timeline on a possible coronavirus vaccine is unprecedented, taking less than a year to complete a process that usually takes several to yield reliable results. The leaders of Operation Warp Speed are trying to allay public concerns of the safety of the vaccine by publishing an outline of their progress and reiterating how any possible vaccine will be held to high scientific standards. The FDA is also stressing that if they make a decision for an emergency use authorization before testing has concluded, it will be based solely on data rather than politics. 

The coronavirus vaccine will be distributed to states in order based on proportional population. This means that Missouri would be the 18th state to receive the new vaccine. Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Director, Dr. Randall Williams, assures that the department, in conjunction with the CDC, has begun actively planning for the complicated distribution methods needed to effectively provide vaccinations for people in all areas of the state.

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