State continues update on COVID vaccine release

Dr. Rick Hong gave more details about how a COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed in Delaware.
Dr. Rick Hong gave more details about how a COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed in Delaware.

 

The Delaware Division of Public Health is confident it will be able to handle the ultra cold temperatures needed to receive and store COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Rick Hong, DPG’s medical director, said Tuesday the virus will be shipped in containers that will help keep the vaccine at subzero temperatures by recycling dry ice for the 15 days before they expire.

The goal, he said, is zero waste of the precious resources.

Hong offered more details of the state’s plans for vaccine distribution during the weekly state COVID-19 press conference.

The Pfizer vaccine, reported to have over 90% effectiveness, is set to have its Emergency Use Authorization request heard by the FDA on Dec. 10. Most health officials expect it to be approved. It’s the one that requires ultracold. The Moderna Vaccine will apply for the same thing Dec. 17.

 

“I know there are some concerns about safety and effectiveness,” Hong said. “We are excited with the initial reports that both vaccines are 90% effective.”

Reported side effects of these vaccines seem to be minor and limited, and are likened to that of a flu shot. 

The way Delaware will roll out the vaccine largely has been planned by a state ethics group in conjunction with the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. 

The ethics group has taken into account Delaware’s coronavirus statistics and plans to roll out the vaccine in overlapping phases.

Phase one is to begin as soon as the state gets its initial supply of the vaccine, expected to be in December and maybe within days of the FDA approval. It will be given mostly to healthcare and frontline workers who are at increased risk to get the virus. 

 

Within the first phase of vaccinations, there are layers of approved groups, and vaccination of the groups is expected to overlap. 

Group 1A consists largely of the high-risk workers in patient/health care settings and first responders.

Group 1B is allocated to critical infrastructure workers. 

Group 1C is comprised of individuals with underlying chronic conditions that could put them at higher risk of dying from COVID-19, such as people in high-risk congregate settings, and people older than 65. 

The sequences in which these groups will be vaccinated will overlap, meaning that the state isn’t going to wait until 1A is completely vaccinated before they start on 1B.

 

“This is a phase rollout process,” Hong said. “This is not a Finish 1A first and then go on to 1B and 1C.” 

When the state will begin to move on to 1B and 1C largely depends on when and how much vaccine the state receives, he said. 

The plans are still being discussed by experts and are subject to change. 

“As access to the vaccine becomes more available, more and more people will have access to the vaccine,” Hong said. 

DPH is anticipating that vaccine will be available to the general public in the spring of 2021.

The state has also rolled out a plan to reduce vaccine hesitancy by providing testimonials from Delawareans who plan to get vaccinated on the part of the state website dedicated to the vaccine.  

 

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