Gov. Inslee: COVID vaccine ‘cannot come soon enough,’ first doses expected Tuesday
The first shipments of a COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use in the United States headed out Sunday from Michigan to distribution centers across the country, with the first shots expected to be given in the coming week to health care workers and at nursing homes.
“I’m joyous to be able to say that the federal government has authorized the use of a COVID vaccine,” Gov. Jay Inslee said Sunday, adding that Washington state has finished its own scientific safety review as well, along with its partners in other West Coast states.
“This cannot come soon enough, obviously,” he said about the vaccine.
The western state workgroup gave its “unanimous” approval Saturday, Inslee reported.
“Given this rigorous process, I am extremely confident Washingtonians can begin to receive this vaccine in a safe fashion,” Inslee added.
The first vaccinations could start in our state as early as Tuesday, and will go to health care workers on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19, and to long-term care residents and caretakers.
Gov. Inslee added that it will take months for vaccinations to be available to everyone who wants it both in Washington state and across the country. He said he’ll be getting vaccinated as soon as he’s eligible.
“It’s an incredibly exciting milestone in this epidemic,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, state health officer. “While it will take months to get everyone the vaccine, we can now see light at the end of the tunnel.”
Lofy said the vaccine is another “tool in the toolbox” in limiting the transmission of COVID-19, adding that it comes at a time when there are 1,000 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across Washington state.
“I fully support the use of this vaccine in Washington state,” Lofy said.
Dr. Lofy also said she will be getting vaccinated as soon as she’s eligible.
“Our safety measures will continue in the months to come,” Gov. Inslee said. “They now have added value because we know the end is in sight.”
Shipments of the Pfizer vaccine will set in motion the biggest vaccination effort in American history at a critical juncture of the pandemic that has killed 1.6 million and sickened 71 million worldwide.
Initially, about 3 million doses were expected to be sent out, and the priority is health care workers and nursing home residents as infections, hospitalizations and deaths soar in the United States. With numbers likely to get worse over the holidays, the vaccine is offering a bright spot in the fight against the pandemic that’s killed nearly 300,000 Americans.
Federal officials say the first shipments of Pfizer’s vaccine will be staggered, arriving in 145 distribution centers Monday, with an additional 425 sites getting shipments Tuesday, and the remaining 66 on Wednesday. The vaccine, co-developed by German partner BioNTech, is being doled out based on each state’s adult population.
The vaccine is heading to hospitals and other sites that can store it at extremely low temperatures — about 94 degrees below zero. Pfizer is using containers with dry ice and GPS-enabled sensors to ensure each shipment stays colder than the weather in Antarctica.
Doses should be delivered to all vaccination sites identified by states, such as local pharmacies, within three weeks, federal officials said.
The Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of the vaccine Friday, saying it is highly protective and presents no major safety issues. While U.S. regulators worked for months to emphasize the rigor and independence of their review, they faced political pressure until the final stages.
Concerns that a shot was rushed out could undermine vaccination efforts in a country where some are skeptical about vaccines — some because of overall opposition to vaccines and others because of the quick timeframe in which the virus vaccines were developed. Even some health care workers have said in surveys that they would forgo at least the first round of shots to see how things go.
The head of the FDA has repeatedly insisted that the agency’s decision was based on science, not politics, despite a White House threat to fire him if the vaccine wasn’t approved before Saturday.
Another vaccine by Moderna will be reviewed by an expert panel next week and soon afterward could be allowed for public use.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.