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Time is now to discuss vaccine distribution

We Americans, collectively, were not ready for the coronavirus epidemic. We ought to be ready for the recovery.

We are pleased to see local boards of health already are reviewing guidelines offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC, in preparation for anticipated COVID-19 vaccine release.

Though a timeline for that is uncertain, it appears safe, effective vaccines will be available early next year. Understandably, it will take longer for the protection to be accessible by most people.

At first, vaccines will have to go to those most in need of them. The list includes health care workers, first responders — and nursing home residents.

Federal health officials have begun developing a plan to distribute vaccines to nursing homes as quickly and efficiently as possible, according to The Associated Press.

But, the AP noted, “Such a vaccine is not yet available, and that led to skepticism from some long-term care experts.”

What? How on earth is planning in advance to save lives in nursing homes a bad thing?

Once effective COVID-19 vaccine formulas are developed, it will take time for the Food and Drug Administration to approve production and distribution.

During this time, a distribution plan should be put in place, so as not to delay getting it out to nursing home residents when it’s ready.

Federal officials reportedly are considering a plan whereby staff from the CVS and Walgreens drug store chains would deliver vaccines to nursing homes and administer them to residents. Whether that is the best method of handling the program may be a matter for discussion.

We also believe some language spelling out who might be included in early distribution should be examined. We urge the CDC and the local health boards to ensure the vaccine is available early on to our area’s most vulnerable population.

According to language in the CDC playbook, people who work in health care, people over 65, people with underlying medical conditions and essential workers “may” be the populations who should receive a vaccine first.

Certainly, there must be definitive direction indicating that all these groups “should” be in line first.

According to the CDC’s direction, Phase II, which is when more vaccines become available, should focus on anyone in the Phase I category who did not receive a vaccine first, and then to the general population. The network of ways to distribute the vaccine should be expanded at this point, the playbook states.

Phase III occurs when there is enough vaccine to give to everyone that wants it.

Now, not weeks from now, is the time to be hashing out disagreements over how to produce, distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccines to Americans.

Had we listened to those who for years have warned we were unprepared for a major epidemic, lives could have been saved. Not might, but would have been saved. Let’s not make the same mistake regarding vaccines.

editorial@tribtoday.com

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