See also: A Comprehensive COVID-19 Vaccine Plan by Topher Spiro and Zeke Emanuel
The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) eventual approval of a COVID-19 vaccine is just the first step in stopping the spread of the virus. Without unprecedented government action and coordination, the time between FDA’s authorization and widespread availability of the vaccine could be delayed by months. In order to achieve herd immunity—when enough of the population is immune to protect the others by stopping the spread of the virus—experts believe that the United States will need to manufacture, finance, distribute, and administer more than 450 million doses of an eventual vaccine.
The federal government must take the following steps in order to ensure that a vaccine is manufactured and distributed quickly and effectively:
Accelerate the development of alternative vaccine technologies to ensure that at least one is safe and effective.
- Each type of technology has advantages and disadvantages, and some are experimental.
- Several vaccines will be needed; the first vaccine authorized by the FDA may not be the best vaccine, and some vaccines may be inappropriate for certain populations.
Coordinate and expand U.S. manufacturing capacity by conducting a transparent assessment of existing contracts, retrofitting existing facilities, and funding the construction of new manufacturing facilities.
- Currently, manufacturers have formed an overlapping web of contracts that may mask a lack of capacity.
- Fill-finish capacity and shortages of supplies needed to fully manufacture vaccines may be constriction points that delay widespread vaccination—even after a safe and effective vaccine is approved.
Use the Defense Production Act aggressively to contract directly with manufacturers to secure adequate supply and capacity.
- Assuming a vaccine will require two doses, the United States will need 462 million doses to vaccinate 70 percent of the population—the percentage required to achieve herd immunity—and 660 million doses to vaccinate the entire U.S. population. It will not be possible to scale up the vaccine to these levels without a commitment to prioritizing an equitable and adequate supply over profits.
- Manufacturers should be required to accept these contracts and to prioritize these contracts over preexisting contracts.
Publicly finance the bulk purchase of one or more COVID-19 vaccines to maximize vaccination rates; overcome insurance coverage gaps; minimize or eliminate drug company profiteering; and maximize coordination of U.S. manufacturing capacities.
- Successful vaccination campaigns always provide vaccinations for free, but the United States has yet to make that promise.
- Cost shouldn’t be a barrier to anyone getting a vaccine, and the federal government has a responsibility to make that guarantee.
Ensure efficient and equitable distribution by establishing distribution targeting criteria; leveraging the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s centralized distribution for publicly financed vaccines; establishing community vaccination clinics; launching an unprecedented vaccination advertising campaign; and cooperating with international organizations and investing in global production.
- With a limited supply of the vaccine, the federal government must coordinate a plan for distribution and assess which groups must be prioritized for vaccination.
- Clear, coordinated messaging on the importance of getting vaccinated and unambiguous support for equitable global distribution are necessary from our federal leaders.
With aggressive planning, management, and funding, a strong and competent federal government has an opportunity to prove that it can be an extraordinary force for good in people’s lives and provide essential guidance during trying times.
To find the latest CAP resources on the coronavirus, visit our coronavirus resource page.