UPDATE 3-U.S. CDC tells states to prep for COVID-19 vaccine distribution soon as late October

The timing has taken on political importance as U.S. President Donald Trump seeks re-election on Nov. 3, after committing billions of federal dollars to develop vaccines against COVID-19, which has killed more than 185,000 people in the United States. Pfizer Inc said on Thursday it should know by the end of October whether a COVID-19 vaccine it is developing…

By Manojna Maddipatla

Sept 3 (Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control andPrevention (CDC) has asked state public health officials toprepare to distribute a potential coronavirus vaccine tohigh-risk groups as soon as late October, according to documentspublished by the agency.

The timing has taken on political importance as U.S.President Donald Trump seeks re-election on Nov. 3, aftercommitting billions of federal dollars to develop vaccinesagainst COVID-19, which has killed more than 185,000 people inthe United States.

Pfizer Inc said on Thursday it should know by theend of October whether a COVID-19 vaccine it is developing withGerman partner BioNTech SE is safe and effective.

The U.S. drugmaker said it will seek approval immediately iftrial results are positive. It has already manufactured hundredsof thousands of doses.

Top U.S. infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci said onThursday having a vaccine ready by the end of October ispossible, but he was not counting on it.

“These are all guesstimates,” Fauci told CNN, when askedabout Pfizer’s comments, adding that most experts project avaccine will be ready by November or December. “It isconceivable that you can have it by October, though I don’tthink that that’s likely.”

The CDC “provided states with certain planning assumptionsas they work on state specific plans for vaccine distribution,including possibly having limited quantities of vaccines inOctober and November,” an agency spokeswoman told Reuters.

The New York Times had earlier reported that the CDC hadcontacted officials in all 50 states and five large cities withvaccine planning information.

The documents https://int.nyt.com/data/documenttools/covid-19-vax-planning-assumptions-8-27-2020-final/6fc8a9ec0c3e5817/full.pdfput online by the New York Times showed the CDC is preparingfor one or two vaccines for COVID-19 to be available in limitedquantities as soon as late October.

The vaccines would be made available free of cost first tohigh-risk groups including healthcare workers, national securitypersonnel, and nursing home residents and staff, the agency saidin the documents.

Regulators around the world have repeatedly insisted thatdevelopment speed will not compromise vaccine safety, as quickerresults would stem from conducting parallel trials that areusually done in sequence. Such reassurances have not convincedeveryone that political pressure will not play a role.

Fauci told CNN he is confident the Food and DrugAdministration and independent advisory panels of experts willall review data on vaccine candidates to make sure they are safeand effective.

Preliminary results of a survey conducted over the lastthree months in 19 countries showed that only about 70% ofBritish and U.S. respondents would take a COVID-19 vaccine ifavailable, Scott Ratzan, co-leader of a group called BusinessPartners to Convince, told Reuters in August.

AstraZeneca Plc, Pfizer and Moderna Inc areamong those farthest along in the race to develop vaccines toprevent COVID-19 infection or limit severity of the illness.Their candidates are all in late-stage clinical trials.

Last month, U.S. health officials said the CDC wasexecuting an existing contract option with McKesson Corpto support potential vaccine distribution.

CDC Director Robert Redfield has asked state governors toexpedite McKesson’s requests for building vaccine distributioncenters and to consider waiving requirements that would stopthem from becoming fully operational by Nov. 1, according to arecent letter seen by Reuters.(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru, Deena Beasley inLos Angeles, and Lisa Lambert in Washington, D.C.; Editing byTom Brown, Subhranshu Sahu and Bill Berkrot)

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