Cuomo asks Trump for guidance on vaccine distribution

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is asking President Trump to meet with US governors and provide guidance on how coronavirus vaccines should be distributed once they are approved.  

States are due to submit their plans for distributing coronavirus vaccines tomorrow, Friday October 16, according to the deadline set out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) vaccine ‘playbook.’ 

Trump has been outspokenly optimistic about vaccines getting approved ‘very soon’ and his administration has poured billions of dollars into Operation Warp Speed to fund the development of COVID-19 vaccine.  

The initiative has helped companies reach late-stage trials of shots they only began developing in January, at the earliest, in record time. 

But with Food and Drug Administration approvals looming in the near future, the US does not have a detailed plan for the next crucial step in inoculating Americans against coronavirus: distribution. 

At the top of the letter, in all caps, Chair of the National Governors Association, Governor Cuomo and Vic Chair Governor Asa Hutchinson (of Arkansas), wrote: ‘MR PRESIDENT, WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE WITH COVID?’ 

‘Governors are willing to assist your Administration’s efforts to ensure a national vaccination campaign is implemented smoothly and efficiently,’ Cuomo wrote in the letter’s body. 

‘However, additional guidance and clarification is needed on the roles and expectations of states in a successful COVID-19 vaccine distribution and implementation plan.’  

As Chair of the National Governors Association, Cuomo penned a letter asking Trump to meet with governors and offer more clarity on how they should plan to distribute vaccines 

Cuomo has been at odds with President Trump throughout the pandemic, but New York has gone from the epicenter of COVID-19, to being one of the states with the fewest cases. Cases are now ticking back up in parts of New York City (file)

Cuomo has been at odds with President Trump throughout the pandemic, but New York has gone from the epicenter of COVID-19, to being one of the states with the fewest cases. Cases are now ticking back up in parts of New York City (file) 

Throughout the pandemic, the Trump administration has largely punted COVID-19 responses to the states. 

Repeatedly, the president has told states to get ready for vaccines to come, long hinting that they would arrive by the November 3 election, until new FDA rules made that all but impossible. 

Both Trump and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told states to prepare for vaccines to arrive by the end of October. 

Collectively, the CDC, Operation Warp Speed (OWS), the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a ‘playbook’ for distributing coronavirus vaccines. 

The plan was officially announced on September 16, after it had been sent out to state and local governments. 

The playbook establishes that the federal government plans to roll out the first doses of a vaccine within 24 hours of FDA emergency use authorization (EUA) for one.

‘Central’ distribution will be handled by McKesson, a $230 billion US company that handles pharmaceutical distribution and health IT. 

The Trump administrations vaccine 'playbook' says that the federal government will partner with McKesson to distribute shots but offers little instruction for states, including what elements of distribution are the responsibility of local officials. The CDC gave states a deadline of October 16 to submit their distribution plans, but Cuomo's letter suggests they are not ready

The Trump administrations vaccine ‘playbook’ says that the federal government will partner with McKesson to distribute shots but offers little instruction for states, including what elements of distribution are the responsibility of local officials. The CDC gave states a deadline of October 16 to submit their distribution plans, but Cuomo’s letter suggests they are not ready

McKesson also distributed vaccines during the H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009-2010 (the handling of which by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden Trump has been highly critical). 

But when it comes to the states, the playbook mostly sets out that the federal government is responsible for staying in touch with states, tribes and territories, and those smaller jurisdictions are responsible for coming up with their own plans for rolling out vaccines. 

The deadline for those plans is tomorrow – Friday, October 16. 

States are responsible for working where vaccination sites will be, who will get them first, who will administer the shots and how vaccines will be stored and distributed.  

Some experts have cautioned that distribution of a vaccines poses as great a challenge as making a safe and effective one. 

And some of the most complex aspects of distributing vaccines – such as transporting and storing them – will depend on which vaccines are approved. 

Cuomo asks Trump for guidance on vaccine distribution 1

Pfizer’s candidate vaccine, for example, needs to be stored at extremely low temperatures. 

Most airliners that would typically transport such cargo aren’t equipped with freezers safe for storing the Pfizer vaccine. 

States may not have designated storage sites with such a capacity either. 

The Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research’s (CERB) vaccines committee will meet on October 22 to discuss the development or authorization of coronavirus vaccines. 

So far, no vaccine maker has applied for authorization. 

Regardless, the states’ deadline comes days before the meeting that could signal which vaccines states should prepare to distribute. 

The gap of information was not lost on Governor Cuomo, who has been at odds with President Trump since New York City became the pandemic’s epicenter in March. 

Cuomo asks Trump for guidance on vaccine distribution 3

Cuomo asks Trump for guidance on vaccine distribution 5

‘States have been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19, working tirelessly to protect and care for our residents during this global pandemic,’ he wrote in the Thursday letter, co-signed by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. 

‘To that end….we request a meeting with you and your team to discuss what is required to ensure a strong partnership, including but not limited to:the delineation of federal and state responsibilities; the funding needs associated with those responsibilities; and the planned supply chain management management and vaccine allocation process.

‘We look forward to a productive conversation together.’  

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