Health

US to begin Covid vaccine distribution within 24 hrs. of approval

Washington, Sep 16 (efe-epa).- Distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine in the United States will begin within 24 hours once the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) certifies a formula as safe and effective, officials said Wednesday.

“Our goal in Operation Warp Speed is that 24 hours after (a green light from the FDA) we have vaccine moving to administration sites,” US Army Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski told reporters on a conference call.

Ostrowski, the deputy chief of supply, production and distribution for the Trump administration’s push to obtain a coronavirus vaccine in the shortest possible time, said that determining which groups should get priority for vaccination must wait for the completion of clinical trials.

President Donald Trump has suggested a vaccine may be ready ahead of the Nov. 3 election, in which he is seeking a second term.

Operation Warp Speed involves private companies and a number of government agencies, including the Pentagon and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), whose deputy chief of staff for policy, Paul Mango, was also on the call with journalists.

“We’re dealing in a world of great uncertainty. We don’t know the timing of when we’ll have a vaccine, we don’t know the quantities, we don’t know the efficacy of those vaccines,” Mango said.

“So this is a really, quite extraordinary, logistically complex undertaking,” he said, though adding that “we are prepared for all of those uncertainties.”

While some people may have to pay up to $3.50 to get the shot, “we’re working on” making the vaccine available to all Americans free of charge, Mango said.

Mango and Ostrowski held the news briefing in conjunction with the release by HHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of “From the Factory to the Frontlines: The Operation Warp Speed Strategy for Distributing a COVID-19 Vaccine,” a provisional blueprint for getting the drug to Americans.

In testimony Wednesday before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, the CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield, said that mass vaccination was months away.

“There will be vaccine that will initially be available sometime between November and December, but very limited supply and will have to be prioritized” for health care workers and people at the highest risk of dying from Covid-19, he said.

“If you’re asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we’re probably looking at late second quarter, third quarter 2021,” Redfield told senators.

For the foreseeable future, according to the CDC head, wearing a mask will remain “the most important, powerful public health tool we have.”

“I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against Covid than when I take a Covid vaccine,” Redfield said at the Senate hearing.

No country has been hit harder by the coronavirus than the US, with more than 196,000 deaths and 6.6 million confirmed cases. EFE ssa/dr

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