HHS releases information on COVID-19 vaccine distribution strategy

Sept. 17, 2020

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Defense (DoD) released two documents with new information about the government’s strategy to distribute SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, according to a press release from HHS.

HHS said it developed the documents in coordination with DoD and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide a strategic distribution overview along with an interim playbook for state, tribal, territorial, and local public health programs and their partners on how to plan and operationalize a vaccination response to COVID-19 within their respective jurisdictions.

As part of those plans, HHS said that the CDC executed an existing contract option in August with McKesson Corporation to support vaccine distribution. The current contract with McKesson, awarded as part of a competitive bidding process in 2016, includes an option for the distribution of vaccines in the event of a pandemic. The company also distributed the H1N1 vaccine during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009-2010.

CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, said, “Through the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, CDC will play a vital role in deciding, based on input from experts and stakeholders, how initial, limited vaccine doses will be allocated and distributed while reliably producing more than 100 million doses by January 2021.”

HHS said that detailed planning is ongoing to ensure rapid distribution as soon as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes or approves a COVID-19 vaccine and CDC makes recommendations for who should receive initial doses. Once these decisions are made, McKesson will work under CDC’s guidance, with logistical support from DoD, to ship COVID-19 vaccines to administration sites.

In a presentation to an advisory committee in August, CDC officials suggested that healthcare personnel and essential workers should receive the first vaccine doses.

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