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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are urging states to speed up the approval process for medical utility McKesson so it can set up coronavirus vaccination centers by Nov. 1, CNBC has confirmed.
The agency said states may have to forego some licensing and permitting requirements that could block the process.
"The normal time required to obtain these approvals is a significant barrier to the success of this urgent public health program," wrote the CDC in a letter to governors received from CNBC on Aug. 27. "CDC urges your assistance in expediting applications for these distribution facilities, and if necessary, requests that you waive any requirements that would prevent these facilities from becoming fully operational by November 1, 2020."
CDC Director Robert Redfield noted that the license waivers "do not compromise the safety or integrity of the products sold".
"Your assistance in accelerating the issuance of the necessary licenses and permits required to bring the distribution centers up and running will be critical to the success of these public health efforts to mitigate the Covid-19 threat," said he.
Requests to the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services were not returned immediately.
The letter comes as drug manufacturers and health officials race to find a safe and effective vaccine through the end of the year. Scientists fear that President Donald Trump's health officials could be pressured to launch a vaccine ahead of the upcoming US presidential election.
The US invested billions of dollars in six potential vaccines last month as part of the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed initiative, including from pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, which have entered phase 3 trials.
Earlier this week, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn told the Financial Times that the agency was ready to bypass the full federal approval process in order to make a Covid-19 vaccine available as soon as possible.
He insisted the move was not due to pressure from the Trump administration to expedite a vaccine, and said emergency approval might be appropriate before phase three clinical trials are completed if the benefits outweigh the risks.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, previously said the U.S. could have results from one of the late-stage studies by November or sooner.
"Things are really spot on," Fauci told MSNBC earlier in the day. "I think you will know by the end of this year, November and December, that we have a safe and effective vaccine."
Due to the pandemic, U.S. health officials and researchers have accelerated vaccine candidate development by investing in multiple stages of research, although it could be for free if the vaccine is ultimately not effective or safe.
Public health experts have stated that the US must now prepare for vaccine distribution, including making sure states have the needles and syringes needed to deliver the vaccine or that there are shortages. They also said the US needs to determine who will get the vaccine first and how.
On Tuesday, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine released a draft proposal for the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine in the United States, if one is approved for public use.
The vaccine would be distributed in four phases, with healthcare workers and vulnerable Americans such as the elderly and people with underlying health conditions coming first, according to the group. The report was requested by the National Institutes of Health and the CDC.
Many medical experts have said that the vaccine should go to the most vulnerable groups first, including health workers and the elderly, as well as the poor and minority communities disproportionately affected by the virus.
CNBC's Ryan Ruggiero contributed to this report.