The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has told states to prepare for a coronavirus vaccine to be ready for distribution by November 1.
The move heightened fears that the agency is under pressure to clear a vaccine before the US election day on November 3. Scientists have warned that granting emergency authorization to a vaccine before clinical trials are complete could pose safety dangers and inflame anti-vaccination sentiment. However, others say that doing so could save many lives.
In a letter to governors dated August 27, Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said states “in the near future” will receive permit applications from McKesson Corp., which has contracted with CDC to distribute vaccines to places including state and local health departments and hospitals.
“CDC urgently requests your assistance in expediting applications for these distribution facilities and, if necessary, asks that you consider waiving requirements that would prevent these facilities from becoming fully operational by November 1,” Redfield wrote.
The CDC also sent three planning documents to some health departments that included possible timelines for when vaccines would be available. “The COVID-19 vaccine landscape is evolving and uncertain, and these scenarios may evolve as more information is available,” said a document.
Another document says that limited COVID-19 vaccine doses may be available by early November and that supply will increase substantially in 2021.
The US Food and Drug Administration has raised the possibility that a vaccine might be given emergency approval before the end of trials designed to ensure its safety and effectiveness.
A request for such extraordinary approval would have to come from the vaccine developer, FDA chief Stephen Hahn told the Financial Times in an interview published on Sunday.
Pandemic planning exercises in the US have for years included recommendations that the federal government ready a distribution network while scientists work on a vaccine. The Trump administration has said it’s doing this. Companies developing the vaccines are already ramping up manufacturing so that, in case one or more is found safe and effective in people, it could start going into arms immediately.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he is confident there will be a vaccine for COVID-19 by the end of the year. “I believe that by the time we get to the end of this calendar year, that we will feel comfortable that we do have a safe and effective vaccine,” Fauci has said.