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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.

Go deeper

Operation Warp Speed leader: COVID vaccine push is "isolated from a political environment"

Moncef Slaoui in the Rose Garden on Nov. 13. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Moncef Slaoui, the White House's top scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed, told Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" on Sunday that the Trump administration's efforts to accelerate the development of a coronavirus vaccine is "isolated from a political environment" and that a change in administration "doesn't, frankly, make a difference" on its efficacy.

Why it matters: Slaoui told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that he has not yet had contact with Joe Biden's transition team, as the president-elect prepares to inherit one of the country's biggest crises ahead of an expected vaccine distribution effort that would require massive logistical cooperation between states and the federal government.

Updated 22 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Sen. Kelly Loeffler to continue quarantine after receiving negative COVID test

Sen. Kelly Loeffler addresses supporters during a rally on Thursday. Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Sen. Kelly Loeffler's (R-Ga.) campaign announced Sunday that a previously inconclusive coronavirus test came back negative, but she will continue to follow CDC guidelines and self-isolate until she's able to get a more conclusive negative result.

Why it matters: Loeffler has been campaigning at events ahead of a Jan. 5 runoff in elections that'll decide which party holds the Senate majority. Vice President Mike Pence was with her on Friday.

In photos: Americans wait at food banks before Thanksgiving

Residents line up in their cars at a food distribution site in Clermont, Fla., Nov. 21. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Thousands of Americans waited in long lines at food banks in the week before Thanksgiving to pick up turkeys, canned goods, broccoli and other vegetables.

Why it matters: As the holiday season approaches, families across the U.S. are in need of food assistance due to chronic unemployment and economic hardship caused by COVID-19 — and many food pantries already served an unprecedented number of people this spring.