In a memo sent to state governors, the federal government says that states should be prepared to begin distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to the public this fall.
The memo signed by CDC head Robert Redfield told governors that the federal government has contracted with the McKesson Corporation to assist in distributing the vaccine to local and state health departments, medical facilities, doctor officers, and other vaccine providers.
In the letter, Redfield requested governors to waive any regulatory barriers that would prevent McKesson from operating distribution facilities. Redfield said the goal is to have these facilities operational by November 1.
According to McKesson, the company provides “next-day deliveries” to pharmacies and has a nationwide network of distribution centers.
While there is urgency for both public health and economic reasons for a vaccine, some experts have expressed concern over the speed of a vaccine and whether the expedited timeline is long enough to demonstrate efficacy. Dr. Anthony Fauci told NBC News on Wednesday that he believes a “safe and effective” vaccine could be ready by the end of the year.
"I believe that by the time we get to the end of this calendar year, that we will feel comfortable that we do have a safe and effective vaccine," he told NBC News.
On Monday, a third vaccine candidate entered “Phase 3” trials in the US. AstraZeneca is testing its COVID-19 vaccine candidate for 30,000 participants. The AstraZeneca vaccine would come in two separate doses, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Even though a vaccine could be ready by year’s end, trials will be expected to continue for over a year to monitor for possible side effects.
According to the FDA, a typical Phase 3 trial would take one to three years.
“NIH is committed to supporting several Phase 3 vaccine trials to increase the odds that one or more will be effective in preventing COVID-19 and put us on the road to recovery from this devastating pandemic,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “We also know that preventing this disease could require multiple vaccines and we’re investing in those that we believe have the greatest potential for success.”