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Access to Cold storage ‘will make or break' the distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine: Doctor

Dr. Rishi Desai, Chief Medical Officer at Osmosis &Former Center for Disease Control and Prevention Epidemic Intelligence Officer joined Yahoo Finance to discuss the state of Covid-19 across the U.S.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: Well, for more on this and what this exactly means for the health care industry and for mitigating the spread of COVID-19, we want to get the health care perspective of all this. And for that, we want to bring in Dr. Rishi Desai. He's the chief medical officer at Osmosis and also the former epidemic intelligence officer for the CDC.

And Dr. Desai, great to have you on the program today. And we just heard Doug Parker talking to us just about those logistical challenges, when it comes to distributing a vaccine, and the role that airlines are playing in it. From a health care perspective, though, how are you looking at some of these supply chain obstacles that we have in front of us?

RISHI DESAI: Well, the first thing for folks to know is that when they think of a COVID vaccine, that it's not just a single vaccine. It may be two vaccines, depending on which one you're talking about, especially the ones that are coming down the pipe first. So that means that we have to think about how to get people vaccinated then bring them back to get a second dose.

The other thing is how to keep this vaccine in what is often called cold chain. And all that really means-- it's fancy talk, but it essentially just means keeping it cool so that it doesn't go off, you know, similar to keeping food. So you need freezers, fridges, things like that to kind of maintain the viability of the vaccine. And what happens if you don't have the right temperature, if a clinic doesn't stock a freezer that goes that low? So things like that are just very basic, but this is what's going to make or break whether this vaccine is able to get distributed.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Dr. Desai, if it winds up being the Pfizer vaccine that most people need to have in storage, how realistic is it to expect a hospital or a medical center to have a refrigerator that can go down to minus 100? Is there going to need to be some kind of government funding to help put those kinds of units into place?

RISHI DESAI: Yes, absolutely. A lot of hospitals may have one, but many hospitals will not, especially if you're talking about a smaller hospital that simply doesn't need a freezer like that or doesn't have the space for it. So you're definitely going to need some mechanism, whether that's state funding or federal funding, to help hospitals apply for and get that freezer on site quickly.

And now, there might be hospitals out there that say, look, money is not the issue. Where do we even get this freezer? And so how to even procure that freezer and get it, you know, to your facility right away? So all these things are going to have to be worked out very, very quickly.

And we saw what happened with logistics around PPE, and that's something that, you know, you can basically jam a bunch of them into a cardboard box and mail it off. And even that was really hard for this country. And so it's going to be really, really intriguing to see how we deal with this freezer issue, which is much more nuanced and has much more peculiarities to it than simply PPE.

SEANA SMITH: Dr. Desai, we had some updated guidelines from the CDC today. And for the first time, the agency is now advocating for universal mask use indoors. When you take a look at the fact that they're doing this now in December, nearly 10 months-- or over 10 months into the pandemic here in the US-- is this something that should have been-- or is this an announcement, I should say, that should have been made months ago?

RISHI DESAI: Yeah, absolutely. I think two things should have happened months ago. One, you can make these announcements like, hey, wear a mask all the time or wear it indoors or whatever you might say. But the other is actually getting people to do it, you know? You have to win the hearts and minds of people.

So it's not sufficient just to put out a pronouncement. They've got to actually put out a campaign for public health education to get people to get bought into the fact that we need this. Right now, we have so much COVID disease that it's imperiling our hospitals' ability to manage themselves and not kind of get at the brink of having to require parking lots and things like that. So right now is why they're, you know, advocating for this. But yeah, certainly, this should happen before we got to this point.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Does this mean-- if you're going to wear a mask indoors, I guess restaurants, even if they're open at 25% capacity, that day is done for at least, what, another 90 days. How do you eat with a mask on?

RISHI DESAI: Yeah, it's a good question. It's a basic question. So what you do is you'd say, essentially, that you shouldn't be having dining indoors. You should go home and eat your food, essentially just takeout. So that's the kind of thing we have to work through. You shouldn't have people wearing a mask and then taking it off for the majority of their time within a restaurant. What are they doing in that restaurant anyway?

So this is the sort of thing we have to work through and actually, again, get restaurants bought in on this. And they're going to say, we're going to lose a lot of business. We may go out of business. And that's why you need the government to step in and help these restaurants offset their losses on dining in so they can get by on just the takeout and that government stimulus.

SEANA SMITH: Dr. Desai, always great to have you on the show, thanks so much for taking the time to join us today.

RISHI DESAI: Absolutely.