- The Trump administration released a playbook about how it would make sure every American in the US gets a free coronavirus vaccine.
- The government will distribute the vaccine to people who need it most and then ramp up to more people as more shots are made.
- Officials expect people will need to get two vaccines that will be administered between 21 to 28 days apart.
- Government agencies will lean heavily on better technology to see where the vaccine goes, who needs it, and whether it's showing any side effects.
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The Trump administration has released a playbook detailing how the government plans to give every American a free coronavirus vaccine.
The playbook is an interim version that isn't finished and that left several questions unanswered, given that a coronavirus vaccine hasn't been approved yet. The US is fast-tracking a shot through its "Operation Warp Speed" program and has several vaccines in the later stages of clinical trials.
Officials released the coronavirus vaccine playbook to the public on Wednesday morning, just ahead of a Senate hearing on the topic. It also came the same day as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden prepared to deliver a speech about how he would distribute a coronavirus vaccine if elected to the White House.
Government officials widely view a vaccine as key to reopening the US economy. The playbook said states should start preparing for the vaccine and look at past distribution efforts to see what they could learn from them. The government is paying McKesson Corporation to deliver the vaccine to locations across the US.
Business Insider combed through the 57-page document, written by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Defense. Here are five highlights from the playbook.
Read more: There are 176 coronavirus vaccines in the works. Here's how top drugmakers see the race for a cure playing out in 2020 and 2021 and when the first shots might be available.
Vaccines will go out in phases and two doses are likely
The playbook cautions that officials can't yet predict which vaccines will be approved and when, how well they'll work, and how they'll need to be stored. However, it also said vaccines may be available as early as this November.
At the beginning, there won't be enough vaccines for everyone to get one. That means officials will have to decide who will get the vaccine first. Though they're still making a final decision, the playbook said those likely to get the shot first include healthcare providers, such as doctors and nurses; people at high risk of getting seriously sick from the virus, including seniors; and essential workers who cannot do their jobs from home.
Officials told reporters in a call Wednesday that they expected a vaccine would require two doses, and that they'll need to be given between 21 days and 28 days apart.
Health officials will be able to give vaccines to more people as more supplies become available. Eventually, officials expect that there will be plenty of vaccines to go around, but didn't predict how many months it would take to get there.
Officials have a plan for deciding who will be first
Government officials will be leaning on the respected National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine — which operates outside the government — to come up with final suggestions for who should get the shot first. From there, CDC will make a determination.
A report accompanying the playbook said that the government would focus on getting the shot to people who have particularly bad outcomes from getting the coronavirus. Evidence has shown that people with high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, as well as people more advanced in age and people of color — have been hardest hit by the virus.
Health officials pointed out on a call with reporters that they still needed to determine what the plan would be to get the shot to children and to pregnant women. Officials also are still deciding how healthcare providers should properly dispose of shots after giving them to patients.
Patients aren't supposed to be charged for a vaccine
Stimulus measures passed by Congress require health insurance companies and government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to cover the cost of the coronavirus vaccine without charging patients. The provider relief fund, which was created by Congress to help struggling healthcare providers, will pay for people who are uninsured to get the shot.
Paul Mango, HHS deputy chief of staff for policy, said in a call with reporters Wednesday that it was an "aspiration" that "no American has to pay a single dime out of pocket to get a vaccine." That includes any fees that might come with administering a vaccine, he said.
"We're getting very close to that aspiration," Mango said.
He acknowledged that Medicare plans might charge patients $3.50 to administer the vaccine but said officials were working to eliminate that charge.
Read more: Trump and Congress tried to make coronavirus testing and treatment free, but people are still getting big bills when they go to the hospital
Officials would use databases and technology to make sure everyone gets a shot
The Trump administration is working on a system to track where the vaccine is going and where it will still be needed. Officials also want to create a website that will tell people where they can get vaccinated nearby.
States have immunization databases now, as do local pharmacies and chains such as Walmart and CVS, but they're not connected with each other.
"The hard part is being able to get the databases to talk with one another," Paul Ostrowski, Operation Warp Speed director of supply, production, and distribution, told reporters. Helping with the technology is one way that the Department of Defense will be involved in the vaccine distribution.
Officials in September said that pharmacists would be allowed to give people shots directly, which would bypass needing to get a doctor's appointment. Still, the playbook said people should be able to get the vaccine at their doctor's as well as from hospitals, dialysis centers, colleges, homeless shelters, and other health centers.
The government will need to improve IT systems so that there's a way to alert people when it's time for them to get a second dose of the vaccine, the playbook said. If more than one vaccine is available, they will need to track which vaccine a person got to make sure they get the same booster vaccine later.
Government officials also plan to use databases to see whether people are showing any side effects that they didn't know about during clinical trials.
The US is gearing up to fight vaccine hesitancy
If a coronavirus vaccine is ready in the coming months, that'll be the fasted turnaround time for a vaccine in history. Officials said in the playbook that they want to make sure that they communicate to the public how they were able to move faster than usual while still making sure the shots are safe.
A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that they will have some convincing to do. According to the poll, 62% of voters are worried that the political pressure from the Trump administration will lead regulators to rush to approve a coronavirus vaccine without making sure that it is safe and effective.
The playbook said the government will work with states, faith-based groups, and private organizations to encourage people to get the shot.
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