Dec 18, 2020 - 2:30pm

The Path Forward: Industry and Government Leaders Discuss Vaccine Distribution


Senior Writer and Editor, Strategic Communications

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A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Princeton, IL.
A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Princeton, IL.

Fill me in: This week’s Path Forward featured U.S. Chamber President Suzanne Clark in discussion with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson; Dr. Kevin Ban, chief medical officer of Walgreens; Dr. Troyen Brennan, chief medical officer of CVS; and Wes Wheeler, president of UPS Healthcare about the distribution of present and future coronavirus vaccines. 

The Path Forward is a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation event series designed to help business and community leaders find the answers they need to execute a responsible reopening strategy and plan for a post-pandemic world. 

What happened? Last week, the FDA granted emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, with more likely on the way—Moderna’s as early as this week. Government and the private sector (including pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens and specialized logistics and delivery companies like UPS Healthcare) will be vital to the successful distribution of the vaccine to the American public. The vaccines need to be stored at low temperatures and will have to be given in two doses—adding to distribution challenges.

Frontline healthcare workers in several states have already received the first dose of the vaccine and they are the top priority for receiving it. Both Brennan and Ban said they would begin to officially distribute the vaccine to long-term care facilities (staff and residents) next week, which are generally next on the vaccine priority list. Brennan added that after long-term care facilities, the vaccines would start to be delivered to essential workers most likely sometime in February 2021. 

Key quotes: 

  • “The development and delivery of safe and effective vaccines at an unprecedented speed is a historic example of the power of private industry to change the world for the better. But we know this is just the first step—now we need to ensure vaccines are quickly, safely, and equitably distributed across our society.” — U.S. Chamber President Suzanne Clark.
  • “I want the people of Arkansas and the nation to know that they should have confidence in this vaccine and it’s necessary to get us out of this pandemic. And thirdly—we’re going to set the example at the right time—the First Lady Susan and myself will be taking the vaccine because we have confidence and we know how important it is.” — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. 
  • “Everybody who gets a vaccine is decreasing—perhaps eliminating—themselves as a potential vector for the disease. The more people that are vaccinated, the fewer vectors there are, the more likely we can make this particular pandemic go away completely.” — Dr. Troyen Brennan, chief medical officer of CVS.
  • “When you get vaccinated, you’re not only doing something for yourself, you’re doing something for your loved ones and the other citizens of your country.” — Dr. Brennan.
  • “My own view is that I think the best and easiest place for people to get these vaccines is going to be the retail pharmacies.” — Dr. Brennan.
  • “In building out our testing sites for COVID, we were very careful to be sure that we were serving both rural and underserved communities. Over 70% of our testing sites are in those underserved communities. Our intention is to really lean into that. While we’re doing testing there now, we want to make sure we bring more resources to those areas.” — Dr. Kevin Ban, chief medical officer of Walgreens.
  • “Both vaccines [Pfizer and Moderna] require two doses. It’s important for people to know that…When you have two doses it’s referred to as a ‘series vaccine.’ We already provide series vaccines, so this is something we know how to do.” — Dr. Ban.
  • “People will need to come back…People will get a reminder card when they’re vaccinated. And then we’ll use text and email—we’ll even phone people to make sure that they get that second dose. Then, we’ll close the loop with their primary doctors. That’s our protocol, that’s what we do. It’s baked into a process we already have.” — Dr. Ban.
  • “We’re on the move and we’re prepared…We’re handling the vaccines in our normal network… Capacity-wise, this is not a real issue…We’re well prepared for this, even in the winter season.” — Wes Wheeler, president of UPS Healthcare.

Our take: Don’t forget—wearing a mask and social distancing make a big difference. 

It’s also vital that Americans get their flu shots, if they haven’t done so already. They’re safe, affordable, and widely available–usually at no cost for those with health insurance. Just like the upcoming coronavirus vaccines, a flu shot protects you and others, so don’t forget to get one. 

What’s next: This is the last Path Forward event of the year. Please join future Path Forward events to learn how to better protect you workers, customers, coworkers, and friends from the spread of coronavirus. 

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About the Author

About the Author

Senior Writer and Editor, Strategic Communications

Thaddeus is a senior writer and editor with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's strategic communications team.