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The Path Forward: Operation Warp Speed Leader Sees Vaccine Distribution for Essential Workers, Elderly Starting Next Week

General Paul Ostrowski, director of supply, production and distribution for Operation Warp Speed.

Fill me in: This week’s Path Forward featured U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Suzanne Clark in conversation with General Paul Ostrowski, director of supply, production and distribution for Operation Warp Speed.

Operation Warp Speed was created in May with the goal of working across the federal government and with the private sector to produce and deliver 300 million doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.  

The Path Forward is a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation event series designed to help business and community leaders find the answers they need to execute a responsible reopening strategy and plan for a post-pandemic world.

What happened? During the discussion, Ostrowski said that unlike the annual flu vaccine (which can be produced in the hundreds of millions of doses) there are currently only “tens of millions, sometimes single digits of millions” of doses of coronavirus vaccine. This is requiring planners to prioritize groups to distribute the vaccine to first as they allocate doses to state and other jurisdictions.

He added that according to the plan, the first groups to receive the vaccines (1A) will be frontline healthcare workers and elderly residents of long-term care facilities. After them, the next groups (1B) will be essential workers (not just in the healthcare industry) and those over 75 years of age. After this will come group 2 or “general public availability” probably starting in March/April of this year.

Ostrowski also stressed the safety and effectiveness of the FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines saying their 95% effectiveness was “off the charts.”

Key quotes:

“We’re in pretty good shape in trying to get after the goal of Warp Speed which is 300 million doses as soon as possible.” — Ostrowski.

“20 million doses were allocated to jurisdictions by the end of 2020. And the uptake is a delayed aspect of that—the four million that were actually administered, it’s a delayed process. Obviously, you have to have the supply out there first before you get the uptake. And there’s a reporting delay, anywhere between one and seven days.” — Ostrowski.

“We’re ramping up [vaccine dose] production…One week, you’ll get two million doses, one week you’ll have 1.5 million. It all depends if you have batches that are lost to filtration, due to sterility, whatever the case may be. That’s common and normal in the pharmaceutical industry.” — Ostrowski.

“We are quickly building on the number of doses per month and week. …In the month of January we’re going to see large volumes coming out of both Moderna and Pfizer as we move forward and even more in February.” — Ostrowski.

“Next week, what we’ll start to see is vaccines becoming available in those pharmacies, as well as other public health centers for the general population 75 years and older as well as the essential workers.” — Ostrowski.

“As for Group 2 [the general public under 75], I anticipate that being the later part of March,  early April when we bring those particular groups in.” — Ostrowski.

“Our intent is to ensure that we vaccinate everyone, even those who have already had COVID because we don’t have any idea whether or not this will be recurring… 70-80% of Americans, hopefully, will do the right thing and stand up to the plate and get their vaccination, so that we can keep us all safe and secure.” — Ostrowski.

“Nothing was skipped…The [coronavirus vaccine] clinical trials were 30,000 people or more. We have the data to prove that we’ve done the right things, we had the right oversight. These vaccines are safe and 95% effective. Are you kidding me? That’s off the charts!” — Ostrowski.

Our take: Don’t forget—wearing a mask and social distancing make a big difference.

It’s also vital that Americans get their flu shots, if they haven’t done so already. They’re safe, affordable, and widely available–usually at no cost for those with health insurance. Just like the coronavirus vaccines, they help protect you and others, so don’t forget to get one.

What’s next: Please join future Path Forward events to learn how to better protect you workers, customers, coworkers, and friends from the spread of coronavirus.

Additional Resources

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