Oct 30, 2020 - Health

States beg for Warp Speed billions

A COVID-19 drive-thru testing center yesterday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
A COVID-19 drive-thru testing center yesterday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Photo: David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP

Operation Warp Speed has an Achilles' heel: States need billions to distribute vaccines — and many say they don't have the cash.

Why it matters: The first emergency use authorization could come as soon as next month, but vaccines require funding for workers, shipping and handling, and for reserving spaces for vaccination sites.

  • Warp Speed is the $10 billion initiative to accelerate the COVID-19 vaccine timeline. Early projections said it would take years to develop and distribute a vaccine, but it increasingly looks like one will be approved for use this year.

The big picture: CDC director Robert Redfield has estimated that price tag at $6 billion.

  • States have thus far gotten $200 million, with another $140 million on the way before the New Year, reports WashPost.
  • "It's kind of like setting up tent poles without having the tent," Maine CDC director Nirav Shah told reporters.

Between the lines: The CDC is asking for Pfizer's vaccine candidate. The company laid out a timeline earlier this month that said it could request an emergency use authorization by late February.

How it works: Pfizer has a facility in Michigan where vaccine vials will be packed into dry ice pods, NPR reports.

  • These "pods will be loaded into boxes that can keep these ultra-cold temperatures for up to 10 days. And they'll be moved around the country in cargo planes and trucks by carriers like UPS and FedEx."

The bottom line: "As far as trying to reach all populations with effective vaccine, that's going to be a real challenge," said Mississippi's state health director Thomas Dobbs.

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