The federal government needs an additional $5.5 billion to $6 billion to distribute a Covid-19 vaccine once one is approved, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield told a Senate panel Wednesday.
“We do not have the resources to support 64 jurisdictions to get this plan operational. To me, it’s an urgency that we get that,” Redfield said at a hearing of the Senate Labor-HHS appropriations subcommittee.
The CDC is in charge of working with states and territories to distribute a vaccine and has already spent $600 million, but that was just for early planning, according to Redfield. This is going to be a “resource-intensive” distribution, especially because some vaccines require storage at -80 degrees Fahrenheit, he said.
Congress could give the CDC the requested funding in another virus stimulus package or in a funding resolution that would need to be passed before Sept. 30.
States are expected to submit vaccine distribution plans by the end of October. The Trump administration Wednesday released its distribution plan, which includes shipping out the first doses within 24 hours of receiving clearance by U.S. regulators.
Redfield said administration officials directed the CDC to transfer $300 million to the Department of Health and Human Services for a public information campaign on the virus. That campaign is set to cost $250 million and will seek to “defeat despair and inspire hope” about the pandemic, according to Politico.
The HHS may also need additional funding for Operation Warp Speed, a program designed to accelerate the development and production of Covid-19 vaccines.
“HHS has told us that to have 300 million copies of vaccine available, they need another $20 billion that they don’t have in any specifically appropriated line,” Subcommittee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said at the hearing.
The $13.6 billion that was already allocated for six vaccine candidates should be “adequate for the initial part of this,” HHS Assistant Secretary Robert Kadlec told the subcommittee. But that could change, he said.
For example, “one vaccine candidate may fail” and need to be replaced with “another candidate,” he said. If that happens, “it could change our accounting and our calculus for what we would need.”
—With assistance from Jack Fitzpatrick