Coronavirus Vaccines are Coming, But Distribution Will be a Challenge

A potential vaccine has given many Americans hope, but experts warn mask-wearing and social distancing could extend well into 2021.

As America gears up for winter and an unconventional holiday season, the country is also ushering in a new chapter of the pandemic. Health experts are warning of a dark, difficult winter ahead, but vaccine developments have offered a sliver of hope. With COVID-19 vaccines making their way toward market approval, a number of difficult questions loom. Who should have access to the first available doses? What could potential distribution models look like?

Listen: What the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out will look like. 


Julie Rovner, Kaiser Health News’ chief Washington correspondent, says that part of the population could be vaccinated by the end of the year. “There’s universal consensus that healthcare workers should be first in line to get the vaccine,” says Rovner. She adds that teachers and the elderly could also receive vaccinations before the general public.

The FDA is under pressure from the federal government to accelerate an emergency use authorization for the vaccines, but the agency is maintaining a cautious approach. “There is considerable tension at the FDA between speed and safety… scientists need time to go through data,” says Rovner. After authorization is secured, officials will have to tackle the distribution and storage of the vaccine. Rovner says public health officials will also have to deploy a massive communications effort to combat vaccine hesitancy. “Elvis Presley famously took the Polio vaccine when it first came out to try to convince the American public that it was safe… the COVID vaccine got tangled up in politics so (officials) will have to overcome that,” says Rovner.

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