How States Plan to Distribute the COVID-19 Vaccine and Its Priority Recipients

By Thomas Price Tuesday, October 20, 2020

As the globe inches slowly toward approval on a COVID-19 vaccine, the logistics of how many will be immediately available, as well as how they will then be distributed, has become a larger and larger subject. With many different states submitting plans for just this situation, how will they distribute the vaccine effectively and efficiently once a vaccine is approved? And more importantly, how many vaccines will be ready for these states to then be able to use, considering how many different candidates are still in the conversation for approval? Here is where both the states and the mass production of vaccines stand currently.

How States Plan to Distribute the COVID-19 Vaccine

There have been several challenges regarding both the plans as well as the many different tasks the federal government is requiring of states without a significant amount of funding. Friday, October 16, marked the deadline for all 50 states to submit a plan to provide the vaccine to their entire populations in a timely manner. The states are also required to set up distribution centers all over their counties by November 1, despite no vaccine currently approved for regular or even emergency use. The situation is made even more difficult considering that the $200 million which has been allocated by the CDC to help with this process has not seen itself become available in large quantities on the local level. Even further difficulties assuming that there will be enough vaccines, which is a large assumption, comes from the various conditions each different vaccine candidate requires in order to be properly transported long distances. For instance, Pfizer’s vaccine, which appears the closest to approval, needs to be specially stored and moved in specific containers in -94 degrees temperatures. With all of these factors making the process more difficult, there is some promising news considering the similar plans many states have and what is being supported by the federal government.

The United States currently has over 40 million vaccine kits, including bottles, needles, and other essentials ready to go with more on the way. In the meantime, the state plans proposed seem to follow similar steps with a phased rollout of the vaccine. For instance, in Kentucky, the state has created four phases that will prioritize vaccine distribution based on risk. Phase 1 will be distributing the vaccine to frontline inpatient and hospital-based health care workers, long term care and assisted living facilities workers, frontline outpatient health care providers, and correctional facilities residents and workers. Phase 2 will go to retail and grocery workers, higher education staff, vital government workers, and transportation and warehouse workers. Phase 3 moves into high-risk citizens, such as the elderly and immunocompromised, along with those with jobs in high-risk situations. The fourth and final phase will be distribution focused on the general population.

New York has a similar five-phase system with slight changes in priority vaccinations. The first phase is almost entirely the same along with phase 2, with the slight difference in adding the immunocompromised or extremely high-risk citizens within that phase and long-term care residents. Phase 3 will be exclusively over 65 individuals and high risk under 65 individuals. The fourth phase will be any other essential workers not covered earlier, and the final phase will address the general population. Most other states follow similar approaches with slight differences; however, the main concern for many of these states is the availability of whichever vaccine is approved.

How Many Vaccines Will be Ready for Distribution?

There are six different vaccine candidates already in mass production. According to local manufacturers and US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, there are already millions of doses collectively available among the different candidates. Pfizer, in particular, has stated that it already has hundreds of thousands of doses already available with millions more on the way. Reassuringly to some extent, it was reported that there will be enough vaccines for the entirety of the United States by late March to early April.

Final Conclusions

While there are major obstacles in distributing vaccines and the process each state has to take in order to successfully do this, plans submitted by the states are sound and based on solid scientific data. Although transportations for these vaccines may also prove to be difficult, shortages in dose will not be the main issue moving forward. It may be a tedious process, but the United States has built a system that should get the vaccine, once it’s available, to all Americans sooner rather than later.

About the Author


Headshot for author Thomas Price

Tom Price is a writer focusing on Entertainment and Sports Features. He has a degree from NYU in English with a minor in Creative Writing. He has been previously published for Washington Square News, Dignitas, CBR, and Numbers on the Boards.

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