National Governors Association Issues Guidance to Help Governors Plan for COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

As governors lead the fight against COVID-19 in their states and territories, the National Governors Association (NGA) released a memo to help governors plan for mass distribution of an eventual vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

“While biotechnology companies are working rigorously with the federal government under President Trump’s ‘Operation Warp Speed’ to develop an unprecedented 300 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine for administration in 2021, planning must begin now,” said Lauren Stienstra, NGA program director for homeland security and emergency management.

The NGA memo noted that the scope of the future distribution effort calls on governors, federal leaders and health and human services, economic development, education and public safety agencies, as well as private sector partners and the public, to engage in “whole of government” planning.

Immunizing the U.S. population against COVID-19 will likely require the single largest vaccination campaign ever undertaken, and governors will play a key role in bringing together leaders from their state public health, immunization and emergency management systems to design and execute the operations.

Among other factors, the NGA guidance to governors’ offices addresses priority populations for the initial vaccine distribution, strategies to address vaccine hesitancy and misinformation, and legal issues that may arise, particularly in requiring vaccinations of health care workers.

While Operation Warp Speed has provided a general framework for vaccine distribution, states need additional clarity around key operations to effectively play their part in vaccine distribution. Understanding how vaccines will be allotted to states, how populations will be prioritized for vaccination, and how vaccination will be tracked will help ensure that at-risk groups, essential workers, and the general population will be protected against COVID-19.

The NGA memo spelled out several steps for governors to consider in advance of a vaccine becoming available:

•           Convene partners to begin planning.
•           Continue to advocate for federal guidance and clarification.
•           Empower staff to build out vaccine distribution scenarios.
•           Begin considering how vaccines should be prioritized.
•           Assess logistical capability.
•           Determine communication strategies.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, the National Governors Association has played a coordinating, federal advocacy and policy research role for governors as they research and implement public health strategies to protect their residents while creating conditions for economic recovery. Among other measures, NGA has advocated for additional federal aid to respond to the public health emergency while protecting vital state services, co-developed a roadmap to assist governors in safely reopening their economies and institutions, and facilitated regular discussions among governors and with federal leaders.