NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. government on Wednesday said it will start distributing a COVID-19 vaccine within one day of regulatory authorisation as it plans for the possibility that a limited number of vaccine doses may be available at the end of the year.
Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense on Wednesday held a call with reporters and then released documents on the distribution plans that it is sending to the states and local public health officials.
"Our goal at Operation Warp Speed, is that 24 hours after (regulatory authorization) is issued, we have vaccine moving to administration sites," one of the officials said.
The federal government will allocate vaccines for each state based on the critical populations recommended first for vaccination by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The guidelines suggest that the government is likely to broadly follow guidelines generated by an independent expert panel tapped by U.S. health officials to lay out which Americans to prioritize while vaccine supplies are limited.
The document, called the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook, said limited COVID-19 vaccine doses may be available by early November 2020 if one is authorized by then, but that supply may increase substantially in 2021.
Officials also said they were working to make sure there was no cost to patients for the vaccine.
Pharmacies and hospitals are the primary vaccination points, and the CDC document said the agency is working directly with pharmacies to develop on-site vaccination in long-term care facilities.
During a press call, officials said they were also looking to reach other groups of people in close contact, such as those that work in meatpacking plants or are in homeless shelters.
Officials said they were working with states on how to track vaccination through state immunization databases and pharmacy records.
(Reporting by Michael Erman and Caroline Humer in New York and Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)