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Washington health officials provide details on how COVID vaccine will be handed out

A drive-thru COVID testing site. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

On Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that the planning process for distributing an eventual COVID-19 vaccine had begun. Further details were released Tuesday by state health officials, revealing who will likely receive the vaccine first.

Washington begins preparing for December arrival of COVID vaccine

Tuesday’s information came in the form of a presentation from Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy to the state Senate’s Health and Long Term Care Committee. In it, Dr. Lofy described the processes behind a pair of potentially viable vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

Pfizer’s vaccine, said to be 95% effective, would be administered in two doses three weeks apart. Moderna’s boasted a 94% effective rate, administered in two doses 28 days apart. Neither led to any serious safety concerns in the trial phase, although minor side effects — including fatigue, headaches, myalgia, and redness at the injection site — were seen in a small percentage of patients.

Lofy estimates that Pfizer will have roughly 62,400 doses of its vaccine available for Washington initially, and up to 200,000 doses by the end of December, followed by regular weekly shipments starting in January 2021.

As for who gets the vaccine first, the tentative plan from a CDC vaccine advisory committee is to divide Washingtonians — and the rest of the country — into three phases. The first phase, comprising over 3 million people, would also be divided into three sub-categories:

  • Phase 1A: High risk workers in health care settings and high risk first responders
  • Phase 1B: All people over 65 years of age, and people with underlying conditions that put them at “significantly higher risk”
  • Phase 1C: Critical workers at high exposure, including those working in K-12 child care, critical infrastructure, law enforcement, and agriculture

Phase 2 would include critical workers at a lower risk of exposure, non-essential workers at a high risk of exposure, people living in group homes and congregate facilities, and those with disabilities. The final phase would include young adults, children, and non-essential workers at low risk. Exact numbers on the amount of people in Phases 2 and 3 have yet to be drawn up, nor is there a solid timeline for how long it might take to move through each phase.

Virologist: We need to adjust expectations for the COVID vaccine

Assuming Pfizer and/or Moderna gets clearance from the FDA, the hope is to receive the first shipments in Washington by mid-December, according to an estimate provided by Vice President Mike Pence to Gov. Inslee on Monday.

To that end, the Washington State Department of Health is asking hospitals and physicians to sign up as providers for the vaccine as an “important” first step toward preparing for its arrival.

Inslee reported that the state has already seen “a lot” of enrollments as of Monday, “but we need a lot more providers” to sign up in the days ahead. Any provider that signs up by Dec. 6 could potentially be eligible to receive the first shipments of the vaccine.

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