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Trump official says vaccine expected starting in January

A Trump administration official leading the response to the coronavirus pandemic says the U.S. can expect delivery of a vaccine starting in January 2021, despite statements from the president that inoculations could begin this month.

And a growing, bipartisan chorus of lawmakers, experts and public health officials says the country is ill prepared for a projected winter surge of COVID-19.

Dr. Robert Kadlec said in an email Friday that the administration “is accelerating production of safe and effective vaccines … to ensure delivery starting January 2021.” Kadlec is the Department of Health and Human Services’ assistant secretary of preparedness and response. HHS says a vaccine could be approved before the end of the year but will take time to distribute.

President Donald Trump has said at rallies, debates and press conferences that a vaccine could arrive within weeks. “We think we can start sometime in October,” Trump said at a White House press briefing last month.


Kadlec wasn’t the first health official to counter the president’s optimistic timeline. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday that there could be 100 million vaccine doses available by the end of the year “pending FDA authorizations.” And Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who is leading the government’s vaccine effort, told Marketwatch on Friday that researchers could know “by late October, or November, or in December” whether one of the vaccines in development is effective, but that it would then take weeks to get emergency authorization to administer it.

When asked about the disparity, the White House was not specific on a date but said Trump’s priority is to distribute a vaccine “as soon as possible.” Kadlec said, without elaborating, that it wasn’t correct to conclude that this meant the country couldn’t see a vaccine sooner than January.

Kadlec was responding to a series of questions from The Associated Press and FRONTLINE about the administration’s response to the pandemic and, in particular, about shortages of critical medical supplies.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of an ongoing investigation by The Associated Press, the PBS series FRONTLINE and the Global Reporting Centre that examines the deadly consequences of the fragmented worldwide medical supply chain and includes the film America’s Medical Supply Crisis.

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The AP and FRONTLINE reported earlier this week that a breakdown in the supply chain for critical medical equipment including masks, gloves, gowns and ventilators hobbled the U.S. response to COVID-19 and was likely a factor in the country’s death rate, which is higher per capita than almost every other country in the world.

Experts say those shortages could now extend to the syringes, needles and glass vials that are vital to a future nationwide vaccination program.

Kadlec agrees that supply chain disruptions led to shortages. He said the administration needs more, consistent, flexible funding from Congress to shore up the Strategic National Stockpile of medical supplies and drugs and expand domestic manufacturing.

“There seems to be universal consensus from both sides of the aisle in Congress, from the health care

Official says vaccine expected in January, countering Trump

A Trump administration official leading the response to the coronavirus pandemic says the U.S. can expect delivery of a vaccine starting in January 2021, despite statements from the president that inoculations could begin this month.

Kadlec wasn’t the first health official to counter the president’s optimistic timeline. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday that there could be 100 million vaccine doses available by the end of the year “pending FDA authorizations.” And Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who is leading the government’s vaccine effort, told Marketwatch on Friday that researchers could know “by late October, or November, or in December” whether one of the vaccines in development is effective, but that it would then take weeks to get emergency authorization to administer it.

When asked about the disparity, the White House was not specific on a date but said Trump’s priority is to distribute a vaccine “as soon as possible.” Kadlec said, without elaborating, that it wasn’t correct to conclude that this meant the country couldn’t see a vaccine sooner than January.

Kadlec was responding to a series of questions from The Associated Press and FRONTLINE about the administration’s response to the pandemic and, in particular, about shortages of critical medical supplies.

———

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of an ongoing investigation by The Associated Press, the PBS series FRONTLINE and the Global Reporting Centre that examines the deadly consequences of the fragmented worldwide medical supply chain and includes the film America’s Medical Supply Crisis.

———

The AP and FRONTLINE reported earlier this week that a breakdown in the supply chain for critical medical equipment including masks, gloves, gowns and ventilators hobbled the U.S. response to COVID-19 and was likely a factor in the country’s death rate, which is higher per capita than almost every other country in the world.

Experts say those shortages could now extend to the syringes, needles and glass vials that are vital to a future nationwide vaccination program.

Kadlec agrees that supply chain disruptions led to shortages. He said the administration needs more, consistent, flexible funding from Congress to shore up the Strategic National Stockpile of medical supplies and drugs and expand domestic manufacturing.

“There seems to be universal consensus from both sides of the aisle in Congress, from the health care sector and from the manufacturing base, that it is critical to move from a just-in-time manufacturing model to a

WellCare of Nebraska Will Rebrand as Healthy Blue in January, Reflecting a New Alliance With Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska

Members’ health plan benefits and services will remain the same.

Community Care Health Plan of Nebraska, Inc. (dba WellCare of Nebraska), which is an Anthem Inc. company and leading managed care provider of health benefits for Nebraska’s Heritage Health Medicaid program, along with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE), the largest health insurer in Nebraska, have received approval to enter into an alliance to collaboratively serve Medicaid beneficiaries across the state.

In support of this venture, the Nebraska health plan known as WellCare will be rebranded as Healthy Blue to reflect the strength of its new alliance with BCBSNE, as well as to extend brand stability and recognition of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield name to its Heritage Health Medicaid members. This name change will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

“Through this joint venture, we are bringing together proficiency in building best-in-class Medicaid programs with expertise that comes from being the state’s oldest and largest health insurer,” said Tim Meyers, health plan president. “We both have a shared interest in addressing the unique needs of Nebraska’s Medicaid beneficiaries and alleviating Nebraska’s most pressing health issues. Through our shared mission, we are confident that we will succeed in building healthier, stronger communities across our state.”

Approximately 83,000 health plan members, who participate in the state’s Heritage Health Medicaid program, will be notified through the mail to inform them of the change to their health plan’s name. Members should expect to receive new Healthy Blue member ID cards with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield logo before January 1, 2021. Existing WellCare of Nebraska member ID cards should be used through the end of 2020.

Members will also continue to receive the same healthcare benefits and have access to their established primary care providers, specialists and care centers. This rebrand will not have any impact on BCBSNE health plan members or providers.

“We have been here for millions of Nebraskans throughout their health journeys and believe that ensuring care access and equity is fundamental to the health and well-being of our communities,” said Steve Grandfield, president and chief executive officer of BCBSNE. “In collaboration with a fellow industry leader, we look forward to equipping more people across our state with the power and peace of mind a Blue card provides.”

When the name change takes effect on Jan. 1, 2021, the current member website will be redirected to a new Healthy Blue website, and members should begin using the new customer service phone numbers printed on their Healthy Blue ID cards. Current members who do not receive their new Healthy Blue ID cards by Jan. 1, or those who have questions may contact member services at 855-599-3811 (TTY 877-247-6272), Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. CST, or visit myhealthybluene.com.

About Community Health Plan of Nebraska, Inc.

Community Care Health Plan of Nebraska, Inc. (“CCHPN”), an Anthem Inc. company that is formally known as WellCare of Nebraska, Inc., is a managed healthcare provider committed to