The CDC Told States to Prepare for This Major COVID Development in the Fall

The widespread distribution of a vaccine may begin as soon as October.

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As the nation continues its ongoing fight to curb COVID-19 with flu season fast approaching, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just signaled some welcome news. The agency has asked states to start preparing themselves in earnest to be able to distribute a vaccine as early as October. 

Now, it's no secret that having a proven vaccine for COVID-19 is the single most important step in containing the virus and setting the country on a path to something resembling normalcy. But rolling one out is neither simple nor easy. The long and laborious testing and approval process needs to be followed by widespread production and then distribution to a nation of roughly 330 million citizens. The CDC's message to states is simple: "Start preparing for the distribution immediately."

In a letter sent to state health agencies and governors, CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, said that states should be ready to distribute the vaccine as early as late October. The CDC's documents on the matter, which were first obtained and published by The New York Times, notes the early focus for vaccine distribution will be on the "critical workforce that provides healthcare and maintains essential functions of society." Broad availability to the general public could be as early as 2021.

Person getting coronavirus vaccine shot in arm
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According to Redfield, the CDC has partnered with the McKesson Corporation to distribute the vaccine to state and local health departments, medical facilities, doctor offices, and other vaccine providers.

"The normal time required to obtain these permits presents a significant barrier to the success of this urgent public health program," Redfield said in the letter. "CDC urgently requests your assistance in expediting applications for these distribution facilities and, if necessary, asks that you consider waiving requirements that would prevent these facilities from becoming fully operational by November 1, 2020."

According to The New York Times, the CDC lays out technical specifications for two vaccine candidates described as "Vaccine A and Vaccine B," and includes shipping, mixing, storage, and administration requirements. "The details seem to match the products developed by Pfizer and Moderna, which are the furthest along in late-stage clinical trials," The Times reports. "On Aug. 20, Pfizer said it was 'on track' for seeking government review 'as early as October 2020.'"

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In recent days, many medical and public health experts have shared optimism that an approved vaccine could be available within the timeframe noted by the CDC here. Anthony Fauci, MD, recently said to the Times of London that we would likely see a COVID vaccine approved by the end of the year, saying November or December is "a safe bet." And for things you can do to curb the virus in the meantime, check out 50 Essential COVID Safety Tips the CDC Wants You to Know.

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