CDC tells states: Be ready to distribute vaccines on Nov. 1

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The federal government has told states to prepare for a coronavirus vaccine to be ready to distribute by Nov. 1.

The timeline raised concern among public health experts about an “October surprise” — a vaccine approval driven by political considerations ahead of a presidential election, rather than science.

In a letter to governors dated Aug. 27, Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said states “in the near future” will receive permit applications from McKesson Corp., which has contracted with CDC to distribute vaccines to places including state and local health departments and hospitals.

“CDC urgently requests your assistance in expediting applications for these distribution facilities and, if necessary, asks that you consider waiving requirements that would prevent these facilities from becoming fully operational by November 1, 2020,” Redfield wrote.

He wrote that any waivers will not compromise the safety or effectiveness of the vaccine. The Associated Press obtained the letter, which was first reported by McClatchy.

Dr. Tim Hendrix, the medical director for AdventHealth Centra Care, weighed in on the letter during Thursday’s Morning Briefing.

“Are our institutions going to be ready? Are public health institutions? That remains to be seen if we can mobilie by then,” Dr. Hendrix said.

The CDC also sent three planning documents to some health departments that included possible timelines for when vaccines would be available. The documents are to be used to develop plans for early vaccination when the supply might be constrained, according to one of the documents, which outlined a scenario in which a vaccine could be available as soon as the end of October.