U.S. Outlines Plans To Provide Free COVID-19 Vaccines Across The Country

Florida Volunteers Take Part In COVID-19 Vaccine Trials

Federal officials have released a broad set of plans to distribute coronavirus vaccines across the country once they have been approved. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created a playbook for state and local officials and said they should be prepared to launch a vaccination campaign as early as January. Officials hope to start shipping out the vaccines 24 hours after they have been approved.

The playbook cautioned that the coronavirus vaccination program will be "much larger in scope and complexity than seasonal influenza or other previous outbreak-related vaccination responses."

States were told to prioritize who gets the vaccine early on while the supply is low. Health care workers, other essential employees, and people who are at high risk of severe illness will be the first to receive the vaccines. One of the biggest logistical issues will be ensuring that people return for a second treatment. Two of the vaccine candidates that are in the third phase of clinical trial require two doses between 21 and 28 days apart.

States and cities were given one month to submit plans to ensure a smooth rollout once the vaccines have been approved by the FDA.

"We are working closely with our state and local public health partners ... to ensure that Americans can receive the vaccine as soon as possible and vaccinate with confidence," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement Wednesday. "Americans should know that the vaccine development process is being driven completely by science and the data."

The vaccines should be free of charge for most Americans. Congress has set aside around one billion dollars under the Provider Relief Fund to reimburse providers who vaccinate uninsured individuals. Officials said they are working out some "complications" and noted that in some cases, Medicare beneficiaries may have to pay $3.50 out of pocket.

Vaccinating the entire population will not be an easy task. To ship vaccines across the world, the International Air Transport Association estimates it will require at least 8,000 cargo jets.

Photo: Getty Images

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