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HHS/Pentagon Plan Free Coronavirus Vaccine for All—Hooray for Socialism!

Once again, fighting coronavirus depends on socialist interventions. Federal health agencies and the Department of Defense (!) are working on a plan to distribute the covid-19 vaccine we’re hoping for to every American for free:

In a report to Congress and an accompanying “playbook” for states and localities, federal health agencies and the Defense Department sketched out complex plans for a vaccination campaign to begin gradually in January or possibly later this year, eventually ramping up to reach any American who wants a shot. The Pentagon is involved with the distribution of vaccines, but civilian health workers will be the ones giving shots.

The campaign is “much larger in scope and complexity than seasonal influenza or other previous outbreak-related vaccination responses,” said the playbook for states from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among the highlights:

— For most vaccines, people will need two doses, 21 to 28 days apart. Double-dose vaccines will have to come from the same drugmaker. There could be several vaccines from different manufacturers approved and available.

— Vaccination of the U.S. population won’t be a sprint but a marathon. Initially there may be a limited supply of vaccines available, and the focus will be on protecting health workers, other essential employees, and people in vulnerable groups. The National Academy of Medicine is working on priorities for the first phase. A second and third phase would expand vaccination to the entire country.

— The vaccine itself will be free of charge, and patients won’t be charged out of pocket for the administration of shots, thanks to billions of dollars in taxpayer funding approved by Congress and allocated by the Trump administration.

— States and local communities will need to devise precise plans for receiving and locally distributing vaccines, some of which will require special handling such as refrigeration or freezing. States and cities have a month to submit plans [Michael Geheren, “US Government Outlines Plan to Provide Free Coronavirus Vaccine,” News Nation, 2020.09.16].

Contrary to Donald Trump’s false-hope-raising comments last night that we could see a coronavirus vaccine in three to four weeks, the Department of Health and Human Services and Pentagon report to Congress speaks of “delivering safe and effective vaccine doses to the American people beginning January 2021.”

HHS also notes that “A multi-agency federal team has worked with five pilot jurisdictions—California, Florida, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Philadelphia” to work on plans for administering the vaccine program. Hmm… the feds picked North Dakota and Minnesota, not South Dakota, to help develop practical, extrapolatable plans for running regional vaccine programs.

The vaccine plan as sketched so far depends on a pillar of socialism, centralized distribution:

Centralized distribution allows the government full visibility, control, and ability to shift assets and use data to optimize vaccine uptake. On August 14, CDC announced its centralized distributor contract by executing an existing contract option with McKesson, which distributed the H1N1 vaccine during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009–2010. The current contract with McKesson, awarded as part of a competitive bidding process in 2016, includes an option for the distribution of vaccines in the event of a pandemic.

Once vaccines are allocated to a given jurisdiction or authorized partner, McKesson will deliver a specific amount of vaccine to a designated location. In many instances, delivery locations will be sites where vaccine will be administered. Alternatively, vaccines can be delivered to locations in jurisdictions to be further distributed to administration sites within health department networks. Vaccines can also be delivered to locations integrated into national retail pharmacy networks for distribution to individual pharmacies [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “From the Factory to the Frontlines: The Operation Warp Speed Strategy for Distributing a Covid-19 Vaccine,” 2020.09.16].

Making sure no American is charged for the vaccine depends on the fine socialist interventions of the CARES Act and the Affordable Care Act:

The federal government is procuring hundreds of millions of doses of safe and effective vaccines, and has contracted with McKesson for purposes of vaccine distribution, such that no American will be charged for either the COVID-19 vaccine or its distribution. Various plans, supported by the CARES Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, are under development with the objective of ensuring no one will be charged any out–of-pocket expenses for the administration of the vaccine either. The objective is to ensure no one desiring vaccination will face an economic barrier to receiving one.

Section 3203 of the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136) requires health insurance issuers and plans to cover any ACIP-recommended COVID-19 preventive service, including vaccines, without cost-sharing within 15 days of such recommendation to the CDC. Once a licensed COVID-19 vaccine is recommended by ACIP, and the recommendation is adopted by the CDC Director, required coverage for vaccines as preventative services for Medicaid Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment beneficiaries and the Affordable Care Act provisions for most private insurance coverage and for the Medicaid expansion populations will also apply [HHS, 2020.09.16].

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, capitalism is not stopping the spread of disease, death, or economic suffering. For a swifter end to this pandemic, and to ensure that everyone can get this vital shot, we must depend on socialist plans and government action.

Update 17:57 CDT: CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield stressed before a Senate subcommittee on coronavirus response that our socialist vaccine won’t be widely available until next spring or summer and that even when the vaccine does get here, “this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine.” Trump ignorantly retorted that Dr. Redfield “was confused” about both the efficacy of masks and the vaccine timeline. Joe Biden questioned Trump’s trustworthiness, eliciting this cynical appropriation of some of his closest followers’ rhetoric:

“I trust vaccines. I trust scientists. But I don’t trust Donald Trump,” Biden said. “And at this moment, the American people can’t either.”

Trump tore into Biden for sowing doubt about the effectiveness of a vaccine that could save lives.

“I’m calling on Biden to stop promoting his anti-vaccine theories,” Trump said. “They’re recklessly endangering lives, you can’t do that” [Marisa Schultz, “Trump Refutes {sic: incorrect use of the term} CDC’s Redfield Vaccine Timeline: ‘I Believe He Was Confused’,” Fox News, 2020.09.16].

Dr. Redfield is not confused: we may still need masks and social distancing and other cautious behavior even after we get our first coronavirus shots:

The delivery could have been clearer, but actually, Redfield is right. He’s referring to the fact that universal masking—when everyone in a group wears a mask—reliably and dramatically reduces transmission of coronavirus. By reducing the amount of virus individuals are exposed to, masks may also lessen the severity of the disease should they catch COVID-19. We don’t yet know how effective a vaccine will be, but it only needs to be 50 percent effective to gain approval from the FDA. Most experts expect that the vaccine will work slightly better than that, but not by much.

Which brings me to the most important point: It is overwhelmingly likely that the first COVID-19 vaccine will not be a silver bullet. Rather, it will be one more weapon against the disease to add to our arsenal. If you don’t like the battle analogy, you might prefer the public health concept of layering. It’s like getting dressed for a blizzard, where each intervention—in this case, masks, social distancing, and eventually a vaccine—will work in tandem to protect you.

This is an essential concept for everyone in the world to understand—because if we continue to think of the vaccine as a silver bullet, the results could be disastrous. Let’s say it’s next spring, and a group of family and friends all gets the vaccine just in time for an Easter gathering. Thinking they’re no longer at risk of spreading the virus, they go to church, where they sing and socialize, then enjoy a meal together at someone’s house—all without masks. If the vaccine is only 60 percent effective, this group unwittingly could be spreading the virus far and wide. It’s a little like sunscreen. For decades, dermatologists have noted that applying sunscreen makes people feel invincible to skin damage from the sun—which actually makes them more likely to engage in risky activities like sunbathing and less likely to use other methods of protecting themselves. Does that mean you shouldn’t wear sunscreen? No. It just means you should wear a hat and sit in the shade as well. (Check out this 1998 deep cut from Mother Jones on the sunscreen paradox!) [Kiera Butler, “The CDC Head Said Masks Are Better Than Vaccines. Here’s What He Meant,” Mother Jones, 2020.09.16]

So while we’re giving away vaccines next year, we should maybe include an appropriation for some complementary masks.

3 Comments

  1. james 2020-09-16

    What is going on? In the last week or so, North Dakota has been reporting huge numbers of Covid tests per day. Around 7,000 daily. About four times higher than previously. This brings down their positive rate dramatically. Their rate was about 20% and now it is down to around 5% of total tests.

    Now, it looks like South Dakota may be doing the same thing. Our testing numbers were unusually high today relative to the new cases being reported.

    Are we reporting other unrelated tests and/or antibody tests in addition to the Covid tests to give the appearance of a lower positive rate? Or just what is going on?

  2. grudznick 2020-09-16

    Mr. james, like you, grudznick too fears a conspiracy. Or maybe they are starting to test all the football players, or just making up numbers. We’ll probably never know. Wear your mask, and for the sake of bejebus, stay the F at home!

  3. DaveFN 2020-09-16

    Trump knows nothing of the matter of which he speaks; Redfield is slowly but finally getting up to speed on the facts and disseminating them publicly at the national level. Gnome like Trump knows nothing of which she speaks; what are her minions in public health doing at our State level parallel to what Redfield is doing?

    Apathy is increasingly shown to be correlated with dementia.

    https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-07-apathy-forgotten-symptom-dementia.html#:~:text=Apathy is the most common neuropsychiatric symptom of,researchers finding it is often distinct from depression.

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