This past week has produced excellent news on the progress of two vaccines for COVID-19. Both Pfizer and Moderna feel confident that they will soon be able to apply for emergency-use authorization from the FDA for their vaccines, and could start distributing tens of millions of doses perhaps even before Christmas. With the US transmission rates sharply increasing, that could be all but miraculous.
But will those doses actually make it to patients? Last night, state health officials warned that they don’t have the funds for distribution and delivery, which might mean that the vaccines sit in cold storage. Or it might just mean that the states are playing a cynical card to unlock the stalled negotiations on a Phase 4 bill. Or, likely, both:
State health officials are expressing frustration about a lack of federal financial support as they face orders to prepare to receive and distribute the first doses of a coronavirus vaccine by Nov. 15, even though one is not likely to be approved until later this year. The officials say they don’t have enough money to pay for the enormous and complicated undertaking.
State officials have been planning in earnest in recent weeks to get shots into arms even though no one knows which vaccine will be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, what special storage and handling may be required and how many doses each state will receive. …
“It is absolutely ridiculous that the administration, after spending $10 billion for a Warp Speed effort to develop a vaccine, has no interest in a similar investment in a Warp Speed campaign to get the vaccine to every American as quickly as possible after it is approved,” said Michael Fraser, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
Operation Warp Speed is the federal initiative, funded by more than $10 billion of taxpayer money, to fast-track development of coronavirus countermeasures.
“The now accelerated timeline underscores the need to address the issue of funding for state and territorial health agencies to make this all work,” Fraser said. “There are many other costs that have no clear way to be paid for at this point.”