The two pharmacy chains are best placed to send mobile devices to vaccinate the elderly and other vulnerable people on the spot, Paul Mango, deputy chief of policy for the Department of Health and Human Services, told reporters in a telephone briefing.
“This is a completely voluntary program from any nursing home. This is an opt-in program,” Mango said.
It will be up to the pharmacy chains to find out how to deliver the vaccines, including requirements for cold storage and personal protective equipment. Retailers will also have to decide how to charge fees from Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance companies for administering the vaccines, which must be provided free of charge to people, officials said.
Mango said the Operation Warp Speed team had no idea how many nursing homes would choose to use the retailers. “We are not imposing our solution on anyone,”
Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director of infectious diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noted that one-third of coronavirus deaths in the United States have been among residents in long-term care facilities.
“We believe this plan will be the fastest and easiest way to provide vaccines to residents in long-term care facilities,” Butler told reporters.
Staff and residents of long-term care facilities are expected to be among the first to be vaccinated.
“We fully expect that both Pfizer and Moderna will have data on both the safety and efficacy of their vaccines very soon. We are very encouraged because their clinical trials are going exceptionally well,” Mango said.
“Part of the reason we do this is within 24 to 48 hours of the time the emergency use permit is approved, we expect to put needles in people’s arms,” Mango said. “This is pre-staging of what we believe will be rapid implementation.”
The CDC had asked states to submit vaccine distribution plans by Friday. Army Major General Christopher Sharpsten, director of supply and distribution for Operation Warp Speed, said this plan would help provide central control and “ensure that there is comprehensive vaccine coverage for the American people.”
“Our goal is to expand vaccine coverage,” Sharpsten said during the call.
Earlier Friday, President Trump said seniors would be the first to get any vaccine.
“Seniors will be the first in line for the vaccine. And we will end this pandemic soon,” Trump said during a visit to Ft. Myers, Florida.