Vials of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine candidate BNT162b2 are sorted at a Pfizer facility in Puurs, Belgium, in an undated still image from the video.
Pfizer | Reuters
Five federal agencies have started telling employees they could receive Pfizer or Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine in as little as eight weeks as the United States prepares to distribute potentially life-saving doses across the country, one person said having first hand knowledge of the plan.
Essential federal workers are said to be among the first groups of Americans to be vaccinated against the coronavirus after healthcare workers nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s interim vaccination schedule. The plan lists essential workers, as well as the elderly and other highly vulnerable groups, in the first phase of its vaccine distribution plan, which has yet to be finalized and may change.
State Department diplomats aged 70 and older or from a vulnerable population group could qualify for an early vaccination, said the person, who asked not to be named because neither of the two companies were ‘has been authorized and that distribution plans are still under development.
The timing is highly dependent on how quickly the Food and Drug Administration can phase out vaccines from both companies for emergency use. Pfizer, which developed its vaccine with German pharmaceutical company BioNTech, said it would submit its application on Friday and Moderna is expected to follow suit soon.
If either company’s vaccine isn’t cleared by the FDA, that would delay that moment, the person said. The speed with which the vaccine could be distributed also depends on a variety of other factors, including manufacture and availability of supplies.
The CDC lists the agencies that would receive the doses directly from the federal government. These include the Bureau of Prisons, Department of Defense, Department of State, Indian Health Service, and Veterans Health Administration.
The Bureau of Prisons is working with the CDC and the “federal public-private partnership, known as Operation Warp Speed (OWS), to ensure the BOP is ready to receive the COVID vaccine -19 once it becomes available, spokesman Emery Nelsen said in a statement.
Representatives from other agencies declined to comment or were not immediately available. Representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services, the FDA and CDC did not immediately comment.
The FDA process is expected to take a few weeks, and an advisory committee meeting to review the vaccine is tentatively scheduled for early December. Some Americans could receive their first dose of the vaccine in about a month.
If Pfizer’s application is accepted by the FDA, the vaccine will likely be very limited and rolled out in stages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccination manual, health workers would receive the vaccine first, followed by the elderly, people with underlying health conditions, and other essential workers, such as those working in the government.
TBEN’s Amanda Macias and Will Feuer contributed to this report.
This is a developing story. Please come back for updates.