US outlines sweeping plan to provide free COVID-19 vaccines

From APNEWS.COM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government outlined a sweeping plan Wednesday to make vaccines for COVID-19 available for free to all Americans, assuming a safe and effective shot is developed, even as top health officials faced questions about political interference with virus information reaching the public.

In a report to Congress and an accompanying “playbook” for states and localities, federal health agencies and the Defense Department sketched out complex plans for a vaccination campaign to begin gradually in January or even late this year, eventually ramping up to reach any American who wants a shot. The Pentagon would be involved with the distribution of vaccines, but civilian health workers would be the ones giving shots.

But the whole enterprise is facing public skepticism. Only about half of Americans said they’d get vaccinated in an Associated Press-NORC poll taken in May.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield discussed the plan before Senate lawmakers Wednesday amid concerns that his agency had been pushed to revise several scientific assessments of the virus by Trump appointees.

Redfield told members of the Senate’s Appropriations Committee that the “scientific integrity” of the CDC’s output “has not been compromised and it will not be compromised under my watch.”

Last week news outlets reported that Michael Caputo, a Health and Human Services Department political appointee, tried to gain editorial control over CDC’s flagship weekly scientific report. In a separate online video last week, Caputo reportedly accused CDC scientists of conspiring against President Donald Trump’s reelection.

“It deeply saddens me that those false accusations were made,” Redfield told Senate lawmakers.

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the committee’s top Democrat, said political interference had damaged public trust in the government’s health information .

“The Trump administration needs to leave the science to the scientists immediately,” Murray said.

As for the planned vaccine campaign, the CDC playbook for states says it is “much larger in scope and complexity than seasonal influenza or other previous outbreak-related vaccination responses.” Redfield said the his agency will be working with state health officials to execute the vaccination plan in coming days.

Although President Donald Trump asserted Tuesday in an ABC News town hall that a vaccine could be three to four weeks away, officials made it clear to reporters on a call Wednesday that widespread availability would take months.

Among the highlights of the plan:

— For most vaccines, people will need two doses, 21 to 28 days apart. Double-dose vaccines will have to come from the same drugmaker. There could be several vaccines from different manufacturers approved and available.

— Vaccination of the U. S. population won’t be a sprint but a marathon. Initially there may be a limited supply of vaccines, and the focus will be on protecting health workers, other essential employees, and people in vulnerable groups. “Early in (the) COVID-19 vaccination program there may be a limited supply of vaccine and vaccine efforts may focus on those critical to the response, providing direct care and maintaining societal functions, as well a... (Read more)

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