How will the coronavirus vaccine distribution work? And will it
cost anything? I'm hearing that one might be ready soon, but does
that mean I can just go to my pharmacy and get it? - Stacey
Hi Stacey: I'd love to say otherwise, but I'm worried this
won't be a fast or simple process. We're all a little in the dark
here; we can't guarantee when a vaccine will be ready because we
can't guarantee what the FDA will approve. Once a safe vaccine is
certified, we still have to deal with the issues of manufacturing,
shipping, and selling.
It looks like we have a good shot at getting something approved
before the end of the year, which is pretty remarkable when you
take a step back and look at the timeline. Nonetheless, approval
is step one in a long process. Until the FDA signs off on the drug,
it won't be mass-produced. So, after we get all excited about hearing
help is on the way, we still have to wait for that help to get made.
Once that first batch of vaccine gets produced, the federal government
has already placed an order to buy and distribute that. That should
mean Americans can get shots - at least initially - for free, though
it's still unclear as to where the drug will be available. This
is also dependent on either the Pfizer drug or one of the other
American-made vaccines making it out of trials and getting approved
by the FDA. If that company's product isn't satisfactory for any
reason, all bets are off.
Almost every potential vaccine will need to be taken in two doses
a few weeks apart, so that extends the timeline even further. It
also might mean that anyone who doesn't get in on the earliest round
of vaccines will have to wait a little longer.
Now, as to where a person can get their shot. Any medical office
or pharmacy that plans to offer the vaccine has to enroll in the
U.S. vaccination program and prove they have the adequate equipment,
storage space, etc. That will further delay things and might rule
out some clinics and smaller pharmacies altogether.
With so many variables and so much scrutiny, I'm guessing the arrival
of the vaccine will lead to a quick burst of mayhem and panic, and
then systems will start to fall into place and we'll actually get
to see how the thing works.
Solving this pandemic was never going to be easy, so it's important
to keep that in mind as the vaccination process unfolds. I wish
I could give a more straightforward answer. Hopefully, though, this
is at least a little helpful!