COVID-19, coronavirus vaccine (file photo)

ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- A coronavirus vaccine may be nearing distribution as multiple clinical trials reach phase three in the U.S.

Georgia being among the states who have struggled at various points of the pandemic to contain the novel coronavirus will play a major role in the vaccine roll out to the public. 

In a letter from Dr. Robert Redfield, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, to Georgia's governor, it is clear a vaccine can be anticipated as early as Fall 2020. The large-scale distribution will administer millions of doses to state health departments, medical facilities and doctors through contractor McKesson Corporation.

With the daunting task slated to begin in roughly 90 days, Redfield is asking Brian Kemp to assist McKesson expedite the permitting process to develop distribution centers. 

"In order to accomplish this massive task, McKesson must quickly open new distribution centers and obtain new permits licenses," Redfield states in the letter. He goes on to say, "The normal time required to obtain these permits presents a significant barrier to the success of this urgent public health program [...] These permits are needed to allow McKesson to distribute the vaccine into or from your state."

Redfield further explains he is asking Govenor Kemp to consider waiving requirements that would prevent the distribution facilities from being fully operational by November 1. The letter does not detail which requirements could be considered, however the CDC director of two years says product "safety" and "integrity" would not be impacted.  

"In our battle against COVID-19, Georgia stands ready to continue our partnership with the Trump administration and prepare for vaccine distribution to every region," said Candice Broce, director of communications for Governor Kemp. "State officials will leverage the Peach State's world-renowned logistics network and collaborate with private-sector partners to deliver the COVID vaccination to vulnerable populations as soon as it becomes available," she continued. 

John King, Georgia's Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner, was appointed by Kemp to identify state and government officials who will determine potential location for distribution centers.

Members of the group are expected to meet with McKesson and CDC officials in the coming weeks.


Thursday, CBS46's Hayley Mason spoke with Georgia State University public health professor, Dr. Harry Heiman about the push from the CDC. He says this quickened planning does not mean an actual vaccine will be ready this fall.

"What this letter represents is not the expectation that we will have a safe and effective vaccine by November, but a effort by CDC Director Dr. Redfield to reach out to state leadership to start putting in place the infrastructure that will be needed to start putting in place when one is available," said the Clinical Associate Professor and Director of the DrPH Program at Georgia State University.

He says normally, vaccines take about 3 to 5 years to produce and get ready to administer. Dr. Anthony Fauci this year said an expedited push could have one ready in 12 to 18 months.

"I think most experts agree that early next year [around] February would probably be the soonest that we would have a vaccine ready to deploy. That’s why it’s important to put the infrastructure in place now," Heiman said, commending the CDC for taking proactive steps to prepare infrastructure ahead of time. 

One question is will the vaccine, on an expedited schedule, be safe?

Heiman says the FDA and CDC have steps they must to meet to ensure that. He warns that allowing politics to influence decisions will be a concern.

"Your initial phases are to show safety," Heiman said. "Once you’ve established safety, you show efficacy in a small group. Once you’ve established the potential for efficacy, then you start testing it in a larger group, and we have what are called 'phase three trials' going on now."


Copyright 2020 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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