COVID vaccine plan in US detailed as CEO reveals reality


Robert Redfield, the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed what would happen when a COVID vaccine is deemed safe and effective after the CEO of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer said how long it would take to inoculate the world.

Redfield told Congress any vaccine available in November or December would be in “very limited supply,” and reserved for first responders and people most vulnerable to COVID-19. Redfield estimated the dose wouldn’t be broadly available for six to nine months.

In a report to Congress and an accompanying “playbook” for states and localities, federal health agencies and the US Defense Department detailed complex plans for a vaccination campaign to begin gradually in January or even late this year, eventually ramping up to reach any American who wants a dose.

Among the highlights of the COVID vaccine plan:

  • For most vaccines, people will need two doses, 21 to 28 days apart. Double-dose vaccines will have to come from the same drug manufacturer. There could be several vaccines from different manufacturers approved and available.
  • Vaccination of the US population will be like a marathon. Initially there may be a limited supply of vaccines, and the focus will be on protecting health workers, other essential employees, and people in vulnerable groups. A second and third phase would expand vaccination to the entire population.
  • COVID vaccine
    Trail of vaccine taking place in South Africa and Brazil.
  • The COVID vaccine will be free of charge, thanks to billions of dollars in taxpayer funding approved by Congress and allocated by US President Donald Trump.
  • States and local communities have to devise precise plans for receiving and locally distributing vaccines, some of which will require special handling such as refrigeration or freezing. States and cities have a month to submit plans.
  • A massive information technology effort will be needed to track who is getting which vaccines and when. The challenge involves getting multiple public and private databases to link with each other.
  • Distribution is under the umbrella of Operation Warp Speed, a White House-backed initiative, which aims to have vaccines ready to ship in 24 hours from when a version is given emergency use approval by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Redfield and other health officials testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee also emphasised the effectiveness of masks in stopping the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, given that no vaccine is 100% protective. The flu vaccine, for example, is generally about 40% to 60% effective against the annual viral strain.

Redfield, masked in the hearing room, said,“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”.

Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India, said it will take about four or five years to produce enough COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate everyone in the world. Poonawalla estimated that 15 billion doses would be required for a two-doses-per-person vaccine.

COVID vaccine
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of India. Photo: Twitter / University of Westminster Alumni

He told the Financial Times that pharmaceutical manufacturers currently do not have the production capacity to come close to meeting that demand.

If a COVID vaccine was approved by early next year, as India’s health minister Harsh Vardan said on Sunday, there won’t be enough doses to vaccinate the entire global population until 2024, Poonawalla said.

SSI has partnered with other drug makers, including AstraZeneca and Noravax, to develop a vaccine and committed to producing one billion doses, half of which would go to India. No other vaccine manufacturer has made a similar pledge.

As part of its agreement with AstraZeneca, the Serum Institute of India has set a ceiling price of US$3 per dose for 68 countries and under its agreement with Novavax for 92 countries.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide US$150 million of “at-risk” funds to help Serum Institute of India accelerate the production of the vaccines being developed by the University of Oxford, AstraZeneca and Novavax.

Pfizer and German partners BioNTech are the only partnership with end-to-end capabilities ranging from research to manufacturing to delivery. The partners plan to deliver 100 million doses this year and 1.3 billion next year.

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