Trump moves up initial vaccine release to before election

Plan targets health care workers, high-risk groups

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION has moved up the needle for getting a coronavirus vaccine into the arms of the public —from the end of the year to just before the presidential election.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified public health officials in all 50 states and five large cities to prepare to distribute an unidentified coronavirus vaccine to health care workers and other high-risk groups as soon as late October or early November, according to the New York Times.

While Boston wasn’t on the list (which comprised of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, and San Antonio), Massachusetts public health officials did receive documents outlining scenarios for vaccine distribution, which include assumptions of how many vaccinations will be available, what temperature they should be stored at, how often they should be proctored, and who should get them first.

The details listed for the vaccines — including the dosage, the number of days needed between doses, and the type of medical center that can accommodate the product’s storage — match what Pfizer and Moderna have said about their products, writes the Times.

The guidance prioritizes long-term care and national security employees along with other healthcare workers. People 65 or older, the incarcerated, and minorities are also listed to receive the future vaccine first.

Tory Mazzola, the spokesperson for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 Command Center,told WCVB that, in anticipation of the approval of one or more COVID-19 vaccines, the COVID-19 Command Center has an “active inter-agency working group evaluating the deployment of a vaccine. The working group is developing plans to ensure an equitable and speedy distribution to Massachusetts communities based on guidance provided by the CDC.” What those plans are exactly haven’t been detailed.

The timing is unusual. Dr. Anthony Fauci had said the majority of the general public will not be able to get the shot until the spring or summer of 2021 at the earliest. Critics are concerned the November 3 election is coming into play, and that protocols for vaccination creation will be shirked.

“There are very strict rules set up in advance of a trial in order to determine when such decisions might be made, so they can be done in an outside way that’s ironclad and not subject to outside interference,” Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, the chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told WCVB.

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Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Stephen Hahn, the commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration, had previously said he would approve a vaccine if one is shown to be safe and effective. Trump has taken issue with that.

“We are delivering life-saving therapies, and will produce a vaccine before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner,” Trump said at last week’s Republican National Convention, even though no drug companies have completed clinical trials. The CDC sent out the documents to states the same day as the speech.