Lawmakers press CDC for plan on distributing COVID-19 vaccine

Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander during committee hearing
Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee (right), and Patty Murray, D-Washington, questioned members of the White House's coronavirus task force Tuesday. (U.S. Senate)

Several senators pressed the Trump administration on when a plan for how to distribute a vaccine for COVID-19 will arrive and to build confidence among the public to get them to take it.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing Tuesday with members of the coronavirus task force on how to safely return to work and school. Several lawmakers were concerned about the lack of a comprehensive plan on vaccines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“That plan has to detail how the federal government will scale up manufacturing, coordinate the supply chain so we avoid the missteps we saw with testing, needs to combat misinformation and vaccine hesitancy and make sure vaccine distribution addresses health disparities,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington.

CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D., responded that the agency is working on a plan currently that will be distributed in the coming weeks.

“We are developing a plan as we speak and build on the efforts we have to rebuild vaccine confidence in this country which is critical and very defined plan for distribution of this vaccine, monitoring safety of this vaccine,” he said.

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But senators said combating mistrust among the public is vital to the success of any COVID-19 vaccine.

“We still have concern from many and mistrust,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. “I am worried we don’t have a plan for how to deal with that.”

Top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, M.D., responded that the administration has a community engagement program embedded within the sites where vaccine trials will take place.

“We are thoroughly aware of what you are concerned about and it is a reality: a lack of trust in authority, a lack of trust in government,” he said.

The federal government has spearheaded Operation Warp Speed intended to coordinate the production of a vaccine. Currently, there are a few candidates expected to head to large-scale clinical trials within the next month.

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, M.D., said the agency released guidance on the standards and data that will be needed to get approval for a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We would ensure our normal regulatory approach and standard for safety and efficacy are met,” he said.

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