Local healthcare providers, officials contemplate plan as Pfizer gets further along in COVID-19 vaccine trials
DELMARVA – Pfizer recently announced its COVID-19 vaccine is 90% effective. But many local healthcare professionals say they’re left with more questions than answers about when the vaccine will be available and how it’ll be distributed.
Tidalhealth Vice President of Clinical Integration Dr. James Trumble says that one of the biggest issues could be figuring out how to distribute the virus on a massive scale. “We’re talking about a very large scale. I mean hundreds of millions of people and more in order to get this, and it does require special freezers,” said Dr. Trumble.
Meanwhile, private practices are left wondering if they would even get access to the vaccine and how they would be able to store it. The vaccine needs to be stored at an ultra cold temperature that often involves the use of dry ice. Owner of the Pearl Clinic in Millsboro Dr. Sherin Howett says that many private practices don’t have access to that kind of material. Dr. Howett adds that getting their hands on it could be a financial burden. “These things may not be realistic for us to financially be able to have available in private practice without some external help in order to allow us to be able to take part in that distribution,” said Dr. Howett.
Dr. Howett also says she’s concerned about folks not feeling comfortable taking the vaccine. Plus, there’s still no concrete answer on whether people will need to be vaccinated multiple times. “If the immunity only last, let’s say three to six months – are there follow up doses that are going to be required? Are there going to annual boosters you may need or every few years?” said Dr. Howett.
Local health officials say one of the top priorities ahead of the vaccine being available is figuring out who will get it first. Director of the Delaware Department of Health Dr. Karyl Rattay says right now the state has three tier categories to help answer this question. “The tiers have really been established because we have to prioritize who gets it first. So we want to make sure that it’s going to where it is most needed,” said Dr. Rattay.
Dr. Karyl Rattay adds that Delaware is working on securing refrigeration systems for healthcare providers so they’re ready for vaccine storage. She also says that Delaware officials have formed an ethics committee to get everyone on the same page on who are in the priority groups.
In Maryland, officials are planning to distribute the vaccine in phases once it’s available. Phase 1 would give the vaccine to those who are at highest risk, as well as those in critical industries such as healthcare workers. In phase 2 the vaccine would be available to the general public.
Click here for Delaware’s vaccination plan framework. Click here for Maryland’s draft vaccination plan. As for Pfizer, they say they will probably apply for emergency authorization for the vaccine later this month.