CDC says U.S. should have enough coronavirus vaccine to return to ‘regular life’ by third quarter of 2021

Health, Fitness & Food

A small bottle labeled with a “Vaccine” sticker is held near a medical syringe.

Dado Ruvic | Reuters

The U.S. should have enough Covid-19 vaccine doses for Americans to return to “regular life” by the third quarter of next year, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told a Senate panel he expects vaccinations to begin in November or December, but in limited quantities with those most in need getting the first doses, such as health-care workers. 

“If you’re asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we’re probably looking at third … late second quarter, third quarter 2021,” he told the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.

Redfield said the Trump administration’s Covid-19 vaccine program Operation Warp Speed was unprecedented. He told lawmakers that a vaccine usually takes four to six years.

Public health experts have previously said that most Americans likely won’t get immunized with a coronavirus vaccine until the middle of next year. Whichever vaccine is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, it will likely be in short supply once it’s cleared for public distribution, medical experts warn. The vaccine will likely require two doses at varying intervals, and states still face logistical challenges such as setting up distribution sites and acquiring enough needles, syringes and bottles needed for immunizations.

Earlier in the day, the CDC outlined a sweeping plan to make vaccines for Covid-19 available for free to all Americans. In the plan, the CDC said it anticipates a coronavirus vaccine will initially be granted an emergency use authorization before a full formal approval.

The U.S. government plans to transport the vaccine to distribution sites across the U.S. within 24 hours after the FDA grants an emergency authorization or approval, senior administration officials told reporters Wednesday morning. The government will use medical supply company McKesson as its main distributor for the vaccine.

When larger quantities of vaccine become available, the CDC said, there will be two main objectives: to provide widespread access and to ensure a high level of immunization in target populations, particularly those who are at high risk of death or complications from Covid-19. 

Redfield said that he has already done “microplanning” with five jurisdictions in North Dakota, Minnesota, California, Florida and Philadelphia.

I’ll be talking to state public health leaders this week, we’ll be working with them so they can integrate this plan in their own unique way for their own state and there will be support to help them begin to resources plan,” he told lawmakers. 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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