What we know about plans to distribute the coronavirus vaccine locally

Health experts answer some of your most pressing vaccine questions

Plans for distributing the coronavirus vaccine are constantly evolving and a lot of unknowns remain, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, local health experts said.

People should plan to wear masks, social distance and follow other safety protocols for at least several more months, the experts said, as it will take time to manufacture and distribute a vaccine to most Americans.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the emergency use of a vaccine against COVID-19 produced by Pfizer and BioNTech. Health experts believe another vaccine created by Moderna, which is of virtually equal effectiveness, will also be approved by the FDA this week.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has announced plans to administer roughly 659,000 doses of the two different vaccines this month. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses administered 28 days and 21 days apart respectively.

As new information about the COVID-19 vaccine comes out and plans to distribute it evolve, the Dayton Daily News is committed to keeping readers informed. Submit your questions about the coronavirus vaccine at daytondailynews.com so we can take them to the experts for answers.

As part of this effort to keep readers informed, the Dayton Daily News will host an hour-long virtual discussion on the topic streamed live on our Facebook page at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Hosted by our staff, the panel will include area health experts.

What we know about distribution plans locally

Initial shipments of the vaccine will be limited. As recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ohio will begin with Phase 1A by vaccinating health care workers involved with caring for COVID-19 patients, emergency medical service responders, and residents and staff at long-term care facilities — nursing homes, assisted living facilities, state psychiatric hospitals, group homes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and Ohio veterans homes.

“They really have to prioritize the populations that are most impacted by this pandemic, so those that are getting the sickest and dying and then those that we need to support the ongoing battle against this pandemic,” explained Sara Paton, an epidemiology professor at Wright State University.

A spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Health said the agency had no releasable estimates of how many Ohioans are in this first group to get the shots. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 720,000 people were employed in health care in Ohio in 2018.

Peter Van Runkle, executive director of the Ohio Health Care Association, a trade association representing long-term care providers in Ohio, estimates that well over 200,000 Ohioans live or work in long-term care facilities.

Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County estimates 50,000 people in the county fall into Phase 1A.

Dr. Michael Dohn, medical director with Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County, estimates the vaccine will be available to the general public in the spring.

“We’re talking about months and months,” he said. “It’s going to take a while to get two vaccines into 50,000 people in that 1A group just in Montgomery County.”

On or around Dec. 15, a shipment of 98,000 Pfizer vaccine doses is scheduled to be delivered. Of that, 88,725 doses will go to Walgreens and CVS, which will send staff to administer the vaccines in Ohio’s long-term care facilities. The other 9,750 doses will go to Ohio’s 10 prepositioned hospital sites, including Springfield Regional Medical Center.

The pharmacies will prioritize by vaccinating everybody who is willing at an entire facility before moving onto the next one, Van Runkle said, instead of “half the people in this facility and half in the next one.” Sending staff and vaccines directly to facilities is the way to go, he said, but expressed concern that acquiring written consent from long-term care residents will be difficult because some cannot consent for themselves and will require a guardian’s signature.

No OHCA member facilities plan to require staff to get the vaccine, he said, and they can’t legally require residents to be inoculated.

Around Dec. 22, a shipment of 201,000 Moderna vaccines is expected to arrive in Ohio. These will go to 98 hospitals to vaccinate health care personnel who work with COVID-19 patients and 108 health departments to vaccinate other frontline workers, including EMS providers.

Representatives of Premier Health and Kettering Health Network could not provide information on how many doses their hospitals will receive.

Dr. Roberto Colon, vice president for quality and safety at Premier Health, said that the hospital system will not require staff to get the coronavirus vaccine but will encourage it. He emphasized that the preliminary schedule released by the state is for when shipments will arrive in Ohio and does not reflect when all doses will be administered, especially if Moderna does not receive FDA authorization next week.



Where do you fall in line for the vaccine?

States have the authority to decide how to distribute the coronavirus vaccine. Health experts said Ohio will likely continue following CDC guidance closely. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a committee within the CDC, has only released official recommendations for Phase 1A recipients so far.

Based on proposals from the ACIP and National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and an interim report from the Ohio Department of Health, the recommended order for doling out a vaccine might eventually be as follows:

  • Phase 1B: People at higher risk due to health conditions.
  • Phase 2: Essential workers at high risk of exposure, teachers and school staff, people of all ages with underlying conditions, older adults (over 65), people in homeless shelters, people and staff in prisons and other detention centers.
  • Phase 3: Young adults, children and other essential workers.
  • Phase 4: Everyone else.

Dohn emphasized that this only “might” be the order.

“The overall explanation for (the order) is that the CDC has looked at the epidemiology and the spread of this virus, they’ve looked at what groups and in what situations people are most susceptible and balanced that with what groups seem to have the most severe difficulties with the virus in terms of illness, hospitalization and death,” he said.

Pfizer and Moderna only began within the past week testing their coronavirus vaccines on children. Whether the vaccine will be approved for children and when is unknown at this time.

How will the vaccine be administered to the general public?

A lot of unknowns remain about how the vaccine will be given to the general public, including how providers will make sure patients return for their second dose.

Once the coronavirus vaccines are available for wider distribution, all CVS Pharmacy locations will offer them and CVS will have the capacity to administer 20 million to 25 million shots every month, according to a statement from CVS.

“(COVID-19) vaccinations will be appointment-only,” the statement says. “Think of it like a round-trip ticket — when you register on CVS.com or through the CVS app, you’ll book your first and second shots. Before both, you’ll receive plenty of reminders (texts, calls, etc.) so you don’t miss either — especially the second. We’ll also have a dedicated 1-800 number for people without online access.”

What does the vaccine do?

Zach Jenkins, a clinical pharmacist with Premier Health and professor of pharmacy practice at Cedarville University who specializes in infectious disease, explained the vaccine will help your body build antibodies against the virus. Sim,ilar to the benefits of a flu shot, you might not become immune to getting COVID-19 but you will likely have a less severe case.

Not enough data exists yet to know how long the antibodies will last. Paton said most likely a booster will be required every year like a flu shot or every few years like a tetanus shot.

Is the vaccine safe?

Neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna vaccine contain a live virus, so you can’t become sick with COVID-19 from them. Experts warn that many people will experience some temporary side effects from the vaccines, possibly including fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and fever.

Paton said she feels confident a coronavirus vaccine approved by the FDA is safe and everyone should get one when it becomes available to them. Both Moderna and BioNTech (Pfizer’s partner) began working on a vaccine in January.

“I definitely will get one,” she said. “They have sped up the hearing processes and the approval processes for this vaccine, but they have still done the clinical trials that are required before they approve the vaccine. And in addition, we’ve been doing vaccines for a long time now. It’s not like we’re suddenly creating a vaccine with a new kind of formula that we had never used before ... these things has been tested in other vaccine trials.”

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