State officials are sounding the alarm over the possibility of COVID vaccine doses being stolen or vandalized, prompting senior Defense Ministry and National Guard officials to discuss how best to protect supplies that could end the pandemic.
According to three senior administration officials, states have raised concerns about the safety of these vaccine shipments with their federal counterparts. But military officials say stockpile protection is likely to prove to be a business for states. Although officials say the integrity of medical supplies is normally a cause for concern, the COVID-19 vaccine has presented new challenges, especially as the country is battling some of the numbers of positive cases, hospitalizations and the highest death rates since the pandemic. has begun. Interpol warns there could be an “attack” of fake COVID-19 vaccines or stolen from organized crime groups.
“You will see states using the National Guard for security purposes because the guard is good with volume,” said Juliette Kayyem, the Obama administration’s assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs in the Department of Homeland Security. “States are going to want the vaccine to be protected against a black market or anti-vaxxers that want to destroy it.”
“States will want the vaccine to be protected against a black market or anti-vaxxers who want to destroy it.“
– Juliette Kayyem
Conversations about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine at senior levels of administration come as officials working in the federal government prepare to distribute the first batch of vaccine to states. Frontline health workers and residents of long-term care facilities will receive the first set of doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The federal government has partnered with retail pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens to distribute the vaccine to residents of long-term care facilities.
Officials say the disbursement could come as early as next week after the Food and Drug Administration’s approval for the emergency use of Pfizer. And security concerns have grown, state and local officials say, now that the country will receive far fewer doses of the vaccine in the first wave than initially expected. Local communities can experience significant shortages, according to a review of more than a dozen national vaccine distribution plans.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has previously called in her state’s National Guard to help distribute the vaccine. Citing safety concerns, officials at Whitmer’s office told the Daily Beast they are refraining from disclosing to the public additional details about which hospitals or local health departments are receiving shipments of vaccine, how many doses they would receive and when shipments are expected. For the same reasons, a hospital in Wisconsin said it would not release any information to the public about the facility’s ongoing vaccine distribution until the first wave of frontline health workers were vaccinated. .
Despite conversations about vaccine safety and President Donald Trump touting the military’s involvement, administration officials argue it will only play a logistical role in the distribution of the vaccine.
“The overwhelming majority of Americans will receive a vaccine that no federal employee, including the Department of Defense, has touched,” said Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff for policy at the Department of Health and Human Services , during a telebriefing last month. .
A senior Defense Ministry official said it is ultimately up to states to secure their own vaccines and whether they want to call in the National Guard to help.
“The question is whether states have enough money to not only be able to distribute the vaccine but also to secure it,” a senior administration official said.
Confusion as to the exact number of doses that will be dispensed and where only adds to the unease. Several local officials across the country, including those in Michigan, said they had not disclosed specific information about the distribution of vaccines to the public because the federal government keeps changing its numbers on the exact number. doses that states will receive.
At the start of this week, states were still updating their distribution plans – documents meant to assist local officials with the distribution process and to inform the federal government of the state’s logistics workforce. While most states now have a rough estimate of how many doses they will receive, local health departments and hospitals are still drafting systems that can alert frontline health workers if they are. eligible for vaccination and instruct them on how and when to receive the vaccine.
Meanwhile, health services are stepping up efforts to get the message across that the vaccine is safe and effective for immediate immunization. Experts say changing numbers on what the federal government promises states in terms of manufactured doses will only create more distrust among Americans about the vaccine and the government’s role in distributing it.
“One of the reasons you want the government to set realistic, if not somewhat pessimistic, timelines for how this is going to play out is because any disruption on the supply side will have an impact on confidence in the whole process, ”Kayyem told me. “The only thing we need to protect or guarantee in a 6-9 month process is that demand is always greater than supply. We would rather have people wait rather than reluctance. “
In a public address Tuesday, President-elect Joe Biden vowed to distribute 100 million doses of the COVID-10 vaccine during his first months in office.
“I am absolutely convinced that in 100 days we can turn the tide of disease and change life in America for the better,” Biden said.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease specialist and expected to become Biden’s chief medical adviser, said the vaccine would likely reach the majority of the American public by June.
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