HHS looking at mid-December for COVID-19 vaccine distributions to states

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says the department is preparing to deliver vaccines to states as early as Dec. 11. That’s 24 hours after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to discuss Pfizer’s request for an emergency use authorization.

“Hope and help are on the way,” Azar said.

Azar says enough COVID-19 vaccines for 20 million people could be given out by the end of 2020.

“If all goes well, we could start distributing a vaccine soon after Dec. 10,” Azar said.

Azar said Tuesday once the FDA approves Pfizer’s emergency use request, the department is ready to ship 6.4 million doses within 24 hours.

“Then we hope administration can begin as soon as the product arrives,” Azar said.

Azar says they’ve been conducting “test shipments” to ensure everything goes smoothly.

“Local hospitals, doctors’ offices, local pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens,” General Gustave Perna said.

Perna says the vaccines will be distributed in waves. The initial push will focus on the most vulnerable Americans, followed by senior citizens and healthcare workers in January.

“If there is more available after the initial push, then it will go out in the following weekly cadences of distribution accordingly,” Perna said.

Azar says the general public likely won’t be able to get the vaccine until next spring, so people should still be cautious.

“Especially now as we approach Thanksgiving, I ask all Americans please be on guard, take care of yourselves, be careful — because there is such a bright day ahead,” Azar explained.

The health department says they are working with jurisdictions to make sure they are prepared to properly store and administer the vaccine as soon as they receive it.

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