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Trump administration likely to 'bungle' coronavirus vaccine distribution, says former CDC officer

A COVID-19 vaccine rollout could begin as early as next month with Pfizer’s request for emergency use authorization of their vaccine candidate, leaving the Trump administration to manage the distribution to Americans.

A vaccine distribution would likely be bungled by the Trump administration, given their poor handling of personal protection equipment (PPE) deliveries, said Dr. Rishi Desai, former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Epidemic Intelligence Officer. “The fact is that we haven’t seen anything that’s been very complicated, that’s been effectively done by the Trump administration thus far.”

“If they turn it around, that would be awesome,” he added. “Do they have the resources? Absolutely they do. Everyone's motivated to get this vaccine out there. And so the business community, the FDA, everyone's motivated to do this. So there's no reason they couldn't do it. But do I think that they will likely bungle it? Absolutely.”

There are many hurdles to vaccine distribution, from the logistics of disseminating it to more than 300 million people, to transporting a vaccine that needs to be kept in ultra-cold temperatures.

Coronavirus COVID-19 single dose small vials and multi dose in scientist hands concept. Research for new novel corona virus immunization drug.
Coronavirus COVID-19 single dose small vials and multi dose in scientist hands concept. [Credit; Getty]

“So now think about one month from now trying to get a vaccine that's never gotten out there before. And now you have to keep it cool. And if it can only stay there for a few days before kind of going bad, how is that going to go?” he asked.

“I'm not confident that this administration can do it, just because we know that history is a good predictor of the future,” Desai said, adding that the Trump administration was not effective at getting PPE out, or distributing masks. “Do we still have areas in the country where it's hard to get good PPE? Yup.”

‘Brutal’ days ahead

The vaccine is especially needed at a time when cases are spiking around the country.

According to the COVID-19 tracker at Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 12 million positive cases of the virus in the United States, while more than a quarter of a million Americans have lost their lives.

“The next 60 days are going to be rough, really rough,” said Desai, who is currently chief medical officer for Osmosi, a health education platform. “The last 60 days have been brutal, so the next 60 are going to be equally brutal. And I don't expect that things are going to get better tomorrow.”

Desai explained that with the colder months and upcoming holidays, families will be gathering and spending more time together. “People are indoors much more, and that's what the virus likes,” he said.

Deaths and hospitalizations are increasing, and the health system in some areas, he said, “is teetering on the brink where you might have to start shutting down hospitals because they simply don’t have enough beds or start kind of thinking back to getting parking lots and things like that opened up again so that you have enough bed space.”

“So we're starting to see that in some areas, and it's really scary because I know it's going to get worse as people get together for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They're going to do it because they're fatigued, and I get that fatigue,” Desai explained. But there is hope: “We have some good news on the horizon. Come Easter of next year, things should be looking much better than right now, and we didn't know that a month ago. So that's good news.”

Kristin Myers is a reporter and anchor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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