INDIANAPOLIS — The CDC is telling governors the agency and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are rapidly making preparations to implement large-scale distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in the fall of 2020.
Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office confirmed he received the letter but not much is publicly known yet about how this will play out in Indiana.
The letter from CDC Director Robert Redfield said the agency has contracted with McKesson Corporation to distribute these vaccines to state and local health departments, medical facilities, doctor offices and other vaccine providers.
Redfield said the appropriate state licensing agency will receive permit applications for the new McKesson distribution facilities.
The letter asks governors to consider waiving requirements that would prevent these facilities from becoming fully operational by Nov. 1, just a few days before Election Day. A spokesperson for Holcomb’s office said they will work with the CDC and McKesson on next steps.
“The requirements you may be asked to waive in order to expedite vaccine distribution will not compromise the safety or integrity of the products being distributed,” said Redfield.
Ana Bento, an assistant professor at IU School of Public Health, has been researching COVID-19 transmission since January. She wonders how the vaccines will be distributed.
“Is it going to be sent to every pharmacy? Every doctor’s office? Every hospital?” Bento asked. “The sooner a vaccine is available, the sooner there is hope for a more robust control strategy for COVID-19.”
In the letter, Redfield said the vaccine distribution program could potentially involve hundreds of millions of vaccine doses.
“This is a necessary part in being able to deliver a vaccine. You can’t just create a vaccine–you have to have a way to distribute it,” said Shaun Grannis, vice president of data and analytics at the Regenstrief Institute.
Grannis analyzes COVID-19 data in Indiana. He said he was encouraged by this letter.
“I don’t know if I see the evidence that we are going to be ready by November 1st, but I am hopeful. Perhaps there is information I don’t have access to,” he said.
On Sunday, the commissioner of the FDA told the Financial Times the department could authorize a vaccine before the end of Phase Three clinical trials, as long as officials believed the benefits outweighed the risks.
Kelly Manning, president of APIC Indiana, anticipates the Indiana State Department of Health will reach out to her group soon, as well as infection preventionists in the community.
“I did not expect it this soon, but I think this is the only way we can stop the spread of this virus,” Manning said. “These vaccines go through several processes of clinical trials. I believe ISDH will provide us information on the trial and how all of that was presented to them.”