Counties will play a large role in the implementation of a COVID-19 vaccination program, as a number of the community sectors that have been identified as critical to the execution of this strategy are county owned or operated — including emergency management agencies, local health departments, hospitals and health systems, community health centers, rural health clinics and long-term care facilities.
On Sept. 16, HHS announced its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan. The plan was developed in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Defense (DoD). The agencies released the plan in the form of a brief report to Congress outlining the strategic overview of the plan, and an interim playbook for state, tribal, territorial and local public health programs to begin operationalizing a vaccination response to COVID-19 within their respective jurisdictions.
The plan outlines four main tenets:
- Stakeholder engagement and communication with the public to improve vaccine confidence and uptake.
- Immediate distribution upon FDA approval (within 24 hours)
- Safe administration and availability of administration supplies.
- Data monitoring through IT tracking systems.
While many elements of the strategy are still in process pending the outcome of Phase III trials and the timeline for FDA approval, CDC’s jurisdictional playbook outlines many preliminary steps that states and localities — especially counties — can take now to prepare for vaccine distribution. As stated in the playbook, the CDC is requiring states to submit plans to CDC project officers by Oct. 16.
As frontline providers for health and human services, and the boots on the ground for local COVID-19 mitigation efforts, counties must work with state governments in the formation of these plans by communicating the funding, administrative resource and technical assistance needs of the local entities that will be distributing the vaccine.
Additionally, as trusted voices in local communities, counties will bear the responsibility of ensuring vaccine confidence through public messaging.
Operation Warp Speed, a multi-agency federal partnership led by the Department of Health and Human Services, has been tasked with organizing efforts to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and other countermeasures including diagnostics and therapeutics.
The goal of this initiative as outlined by HHS is to “deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 by January 2021.”
The Departments of Health and Human Services and Defense are spending billions of dollars on the development of six vaccines being developed by BioNTech SE/Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca/Oxford, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Novavax, and Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline. Congress has allocated roughly $10 billion to this effort through supplemental appropriations in previously passed COVID-19 relief bills including the CARES Act.
NACo will continue to track and report on new developments on a COVID-19 vaccine, and share resources to aid in the development and implementation of local COVID-19 vaccine programs on our NACo COVID-19 resource hub: https://www.naco.org/resources/covid19.