By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – The Trump administration released its strategy for the distribution of a potential COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, with the strategy focusing on the rollout of free vaccines.
The plan formulated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Pentagon and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lays out the proposed distribution plan for state, local, territorial and tribal leaders ahead of the vaccination's finalization.
The goal is to ensure that vaccines are provided at no costs to distributors and no out-of-pocket costs to patients, according to one of the documents released by the agencies.
The plan focuses on three phases, with the first set to focus on critical population groups that will not be identified until distribution is closer to becoming a reality.
Potential groups identified by departments include frontline health workers, essential workers, and high risk groups.
As the volume of available vaccines increases phase two would begin with an emphasis on ensuring widespread access through commercial and private partners, and high inoculation levels for individuals most vulnerable to COVID-19.
Those groups include people with hypertension, diabetes and existing respiratory conditions.
In phase three open vaccination would begin as supply begins to outstrip administration, and efforts would ensure that excess supply is properly handled to ensure it does not go to waste.
The plan is intended to be flexible to allow for jurisdictions to respond to changing scenarios as distribution commences.
“As part of Operation Warp Speed, we have been laying the groundwork for months to distribute and administer a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it meets FDA’s gold standard,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
Operation Warp Speed is the administration's intra-departmental vaccine development program.
“This in-depth, round-the-clock planning work with our state and local partners and trusted community organizations, especially through CDC, will ensure that Americans can receive a safe and effective vaccine in record time,” he added.
The strategy's rollout comes on the heels of US President Donald Trump claiming Tuesday that a vaccine may be ready in as little as four weeks, a suggestion he appeared to hint at again shortly after the administration's plan was formally rolled out to the public.
"Vaccines are moving along fast and safely!" Trump said on Twitter.