Health and Science

Warp Speed official urges patience on Covid vaccine: 'We are not going to turn anybody away'

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Key Points
  • Operation Warp Speed's director of supply production and distribution put out an estimated timetable on Covid-19 vaccine availability across the United States.
  • Ret. Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski promised in a CNBC interview that everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by June.
  • "This is a scenario where we are not going to turn anybody away," he said. "We ask the American people to understand that, because at first, it's going to be scarce resources."
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Warp Speed official says everyone who wants a vaccine would be able to get one by June

Operation Warp Speed's director of supply production and distribution put out an estimated timetable on Covid-19 vaccine availability across the United States.

Ret. Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski promised in a CNBC interview that everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by June.

"This is a scenario where we are not going to turn anybody away," he said on "The News with Shepard Smith" on Wednesday evening. "We ask the American people to understand that, because at first, it's going to be scarce resources."

Moncef Slaoui, chief science advisor for the White House's Warp Speed program, told The Washington Post in a livestream interview Tuesday there could be enough doses to immunize the rest of the nearly 8 billion people in the world by early to mid-2022.

The Food and Drug Administration set a meeting of its vaccine advisory committee for Dec. 10 to discuss the Pfizer/BioNTech request for emergency use authorization of their inoculation in the United States. A week later, the FDA will be considering a vaccine from U.S.-based Moderna. Both vaccines are two doses.

The vaccine from U.S.-based Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech will be rolled out in the U.K. next week after British regulators cleared it for emergency use Wednesday. Elderly people in care homes and medical workers will be first in line in the U.K.

On Tuesday, a panel of medical experts advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted to put those populations first in the U.S., too, when a vaccine gets approval.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday that the U.S. government is on track to ship enough vaccine doses for 20 million people by the end of the year.

As vaccine doses become more widely available, Ostrowski stressed the importance of a communication campaign in the distribution strategy.

"Some of it's a work in progress, but certainly public service announcements," he said. "We'll also have websites that show the states and where in the states to go get the vaccines, and also what prioritization groups are going to be in line, so all that will be available to the American people." 

CNBC host Shepard Smith asked Ostrowski whether or not there will be an ID requirement when it comes to getting vaccinated; for example, would someone have to show that they had diabetes in order to get the vaccine if one or more becomes available next month in limited supply?

"No certainly not, we're not going to go to that level," Ostrowski said. "Bottom line is what we want to do is ensure that we get vaccines in arms at the state-level to prioritize that, so if you're coming in for a vaccine, obviously we want you to be prioritized." 

Ostrowski said it will be up to governors to decide priority within their states. He did not offer specific suggestions for ensuring those who need the vaccine most would get it.   

"We would like you to come forward if you have those comorbidities, or if you're elderly, or if you're a health-care worker. But we're not going to stop people from coming forward for a vaccine," he said. "It would be irresponsible to do that."

Operation Warp Speed is working with six pharmaceutical companies to develop, manufacture and distribute their Covid-19 vaccines.