COVID-19

States are scrambling to build vaccine distribution infrastructure

Erika Beras Oct 8, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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A volunteer receives a COVID-19 vaccination in a trial at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida, in August. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

States are scrambling to build vaccine distribution infrastructure

Erika Beras Oct 8, 2020
A volunteer receives a COVID-19 vaccination in a trial at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida, in August. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY


The race is on to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, but there are lots of unanswered questions out there.

What drug company will make it? When the vaccine will arrive? Who will be first in line to get it? And when it does arrive, it’s really not clear if the infrastructure will be in place to distribute it.

Creating a new vaccine has its own scientific challenges. Then come the logistics.

“The different vaccines that are under development have different storage needs and different infrastructure needs,” said Katherine Baicker, a health economist at the University of Chicago. For instance, some need medical freezers that cost thousands of dollars. “A negative-80-degree freezer is not the kind of freezer you buy at Home Depot,” she said.

There may be shortages of those freezers, as well as vials and special syringes — and who knows what else.  

“We could, theoretically, just as we did with testing supplies, run into some problems of having enough vaccine, but not enough of the injection material to actually put the shots in the arms,” said Georges Benjamin, director of the American Public Health Association.

And even if the supplies are there, trained personnel are needed. 

“The people that are going to have to give the vaccination are the same people that are involved in managing the testing [and] contact tracing,” Benjamin said.

But health departments are cash strapped, and money to administer the vaccine may not come in until the vaccine arrives.  

Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO at the National Association of County and City Health Officials, said if the funds were available earlier, “we could be preparing by already ramping up the workforce.”

Money could help with that vaccine prep, but there’s still uncertainty about exactly what to get. 

“We may have to return something or be stuck holding the bag, if you will, because we have a product that is not useful,” said Umair Shah, who runs the Harris County Public Health department in Houston.

Local health authorities are waiting, and in the meantime responding to the pandemic.  

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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