Farley said it makes sense to prepare now, even if a vaccine isn’t ready right away. “Sooner or later we have to distribute a vaccine,” he said.
Nate Wardle, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Health Department, said the state has a team that is always preparing for big vaccination efforts. “Our current planning includes several avenues for making vaccines available to the public and at risk groups, including working with doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and other places where other vaccines are readily available.
Philadelphia, along with four states, was asked in August to create a distribution plan that could serve as a model for other locations by October 1, Wardle said. Now, he said, the CDC appears to have asked all states to work out their own plans.
The storage of vaccines will be a major challenge. The Pfizer vaccine has to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius, which requires special freezers that are normally only found in large hospitals. Moderna’s vaccine needs minus 20 degrees. Another option is to make sure people get both doses at the correct distance.
Garrow of the city health department also pointed out the challenge of the data. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses three or four weeks apart. The timing of each dose should be tracked and patients should be reminded to receive the second dose.
A big remaining question is whether a person can receive doses in different hospitals, cities, or states.