December 7, 2020

How Will A COVID Vaccine Be Distributed In The United States?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve emergency use of not one, but two, COVID-19 vaccines over the next several days. That approval means the vaccines could be shipped by mid-December.

Who decides who will get the vaccine first, however? As New York magazine wrote recently, many players will be involved, including:

  • Several federal agencies and the U.S. military;
  • “Countless” state and local agencies and authorities, including lawmakers and public health officials in all 50 U.S. states and 14 U.S. territories;
  • Pharmaceutical companies and their manufacturing operations;
  • Public and private healthcare facilities;
  • Manufacturers and suppliers of equipment needed to administer the vaccines;
  • Health insurance providers;
  • Companies expected to provide vaccine administration sites like pharmacies and grocery store chains; and
  • Shipping and logistics companies like UPS and FedEx and at least one major airline.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield explained at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event last week that, while the federal government will issue guidance on who should get the vaccine first, each state will make its own determination.

Indeed, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a committee that advises the CDC on vaccine policy, met on December 1 and its members voted 13-1 to advise that healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents receive the vaccine during the initial shipment. According to a CNBC report, there are roughly 21 million healthcare workers and three million long-term care facility residents in the United States – and, as Reuters has reported, the first shipment of vaccines doses is expected to cover only 3.2 million people.

If MSCI members are interested in keeping track of state policies, the CDC has created a page, available here, that contains an executive summary that examines how each state plans to approach vaccine deployment.

While distribution will take time, Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed, the federal government effort to develop and distribute a vaccine, said the United States could vaccinate 100 million people against the coronavirus by the end of February. Slaoui also said the entire U.S. population of 331 million people could be vaccinated against COVID-19 by June.