Planning for COVID-19 vaccine when available is causing state and local health departments a lot of angst these days. COVID-19 vaccine planning, normal routine vaccine administration and the impending onslaught of influenza have been heralded as the triple threat for jurisdictions to combat in the coming months… and they are very focused on these threats, though in many different ways. Regardless of the approach, there seem to be a number of different elements for any jurisdiction to consider. These include:
There is a global race for the development of a vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Finding a vaccine that works and receives approval is only part of the process. There are a series of other steps that need to be taken so that the vaccine can be delivered. These include the mass production of the vaccine, shipment, administration and record-keeping. This may be even more complex as there may be several vaccines.
In this article we review some of these issues with a particular focus on the United States.
The United States is continuing its slow emergence from a nation-wide shut down imposed to slow down the spread of COVID-19. Most states have started to reopen, with bars, restaurants, and many workplaces starting to fill. As people begin to spend more time together again, it is critically important that public health agencies do everything they can to help prevent further spread of the infection and continue to monitor the level of infection within the population.
On June 10, 2020 the US Senate released a white paper titled “Preparing for the Next Pandemic” under the signature of Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. The white paper has five recommendations to address future pandemics based on lessons learned from COVID-19 and the past 20 years of pandemic planning. “The five recommendations…along with a series of questions at the end of this white paper, are intended to elicit recommendations that Congress can consider and act on this year,” Alexander said in a statement, adding that “I am inviting comments, responses, and any additional recommendations for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to consider. This feedback will be shared with my colleagues, both Democrat and Republican.” This feedback from the public will be accepted until June 26, 2020 and can be submitted to PandemicPreparedness@help.senate.gov.
Like many things in the age of COVID-19, the vaccine development landscape is unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes. There are over 100 SARS-CoV-2 vaccines currently in development, many of which are utilizing new technologies not used in any currently licensed vaccine. The potential impact on immunization schedules (clinical guidelines for clinicians) and immunization clinical decision support is significant.