COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts are National and Local

This is one of four reports from the December Brazda Breakfast Briefing. Click here for a feed of reports from these events

Sandra Lindsay became the first American to receive a coronavirus vaccine outside of a clinical trial on December 14. The nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center is the first of hundreds of millions of people who will need the vaccine to control the coronavirus pandemic as America’s death toll rises. To be successful, the rollout of the vaccination campaign requires coordination among state, local and national officials and private sector leaders.

According to Claire Hannan, Executive Director of the Association of Immunization Managers (AIM), most states have already developed robust logistics and communications plans to oversee their rollouts of the campaign. This planning is crucial, she explained at the Alliance for Health Policy’s Brazda Breakfast Briefing on December 15, sponsored by APCO Worldwide, because states and localities have significant decision-making authority to allocate doses to local providers and request additional shipments from central suppliers.

In states like Wisconsin, local need for vaccine doses varies widely between large cities like Milwaukee and rural communities. Since the vaccines need to be carefully stored under precise temperature conditions, state and local officials need to establish clear lines of communication for how many doses they require and what the turnover rate is for vaccine shipments to make sure that as little of the vaccine is wasted as possible. States enrolled private doctors’ offices and clinics in databases that require them to report robust information about when vaccine doses are used, how many are supplied and other data that is available to the public.

Though public officials are responsible for managing the immunization process, as part of their effort they are closely communicating with members of the private sector like Ed Kaleta, head of U.S. government relations at Walgreens. Walgreens and CVS will utilize their networks of thousands of pharmacies and clinics as staging points for the first wave of immunizations in long-term care facilities for the elderly and, later, the general public.

To Mr. Kaleta, years of vaccine rollouts from the annual flu drive to the H1N1 vaccine have prepared Walgreens to handle the coronavirus vaccination effort. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that a distribution effort of this size and in such a compressed timeframe demands a new level of communication, coordination and planning. Since 80% of the U.S. population is within five miles of a Walgreens pharmacy, its sites will be some of the most common locations for ordinary Americans to receive their coronavirus shots.

With large national networks like Walgreens and major hospital systems providing much of the infrastructure for vaccinations, Claire Hannan pointed out that immunization managers and government officials need to plan for the 20% of the population that does not have an easily accessible immunization site. Coordinating distribution plans from the CDC to local communities in rural towns will ensure that no one is left behind when vaccines become widely available.

You can watch the full Brazda Breakfast briefing here.