Facilities receive first shipments of COVID-19 vaccine
Wed, 12/16/2020 - 8:53am caleb
Healthcare workers first to be vaccinated, vaccines for general public not expected until ‘late spring’ of 2021
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
According to state and local healthcare officials, the week of December 14-18 featured the first COVID-19 vaccinations in Michigan as the state started to receive its first allocations of the vaccine.
“Frontline healthcare workers at two Michigan hospitals (on December 14) were the first people in the state to receive the (COVID-19 vaccine),” according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
For now, the state is receiving and preparing to receive COVID-19 vaccines from two different companies: Pfizer and Moderna. The vaccine from Pfizer, a Michigan-based company, arrived first.
“This means a new era in fighting this pandemic,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive, during an update to the state on Tuesday, December 15. “The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is 95 percent effective and is safe. It has been tested in trials including tens of thousands of people. As more and more people get the vaccine, we will start to see fewer lives lost. While it will take several months, there will be an end to this pandemic.”
Dr. Khaldun said hundreds of sites in Michigan will be able to provide the vaccines as supplies arrive.
“There are almost 300 providers all across the state that are enrolled and will be able to administer this vaccine. Hospitals, local health departments, pharmacies, outpatient clinics, and others will be able to provide this vaccine to everyone with no out of pocket costs,” Dr. Khaldun said.
Dr. Khaldun said the state is focusing first on healthcare workers and people at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 in the early part of the process. It may be several weeks before the vaccine is available to the general public.
“For now, because there is limited supply of the vaccine, our state is starting with frontline healthcare workers getting vaccinated this week. By the end of the month we hope to be able to start vaccinating residents and staff in skilled nursing facilities,” Dr. Khaldun said. “Eventually, depending on the supply from the federal government, we will start vaccinating other essential workers and those who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness and we hope to be able to offer the vaccine to the general public by late spring of next year.”
“Everyone age 16 and up should now be planning for how and when they will get the vaccine and they should know what to expect. The vaccine was developed using a robust scientific process and no steps have been skipped in the approval process,” Dr. Khaldun said.
How was a vaccine that normally takes years to develop completed and approved in months? According to Dr. Nick Torney, Munson Healthcare Infectious Disease Pharmacist, the “main reason” was money.
Munson Healthcare provided information about the vaccine during an online press conference on Tuesday, December 15.
“It normally takes years to develop a vaccine. The following steps were taken to shorten the timeline without sacrificing safety: $10 billion provided by the U.S. government for Operation Warp Speed, taking the risk out of the research and development process; Overlapping Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III clinical trials; Manufacturers began producing the vaccine in March 2020; The mRNA vaccine has an advantage in that large amounts of the mRNA can be synthesized very rapidly; Distribution plans developed early,” according to a presentation by Dr. Torney.
Dr. Torney said the vaccine is “approved for (people) 16 years and older” but it “was not tested on pregnant or breast-feeding women.” Dr. Torney said pregnant women should consult with their healthcare providers and they will have to make a decision on whether or not to get the vaccine based on a personal “risk/benefit analysis.”
Dr. Torney said reported side effects from the vaccine include sore arm, headache, and fever.
“These symptoms are common and usually go away within a week and are a sign that your immune system is working as it should,” according to Dr. Torney.
Dr. Khaldun said “mild side effects” from the vaccine may happen and they’re a positive sign.
“The vaccine can not actually give you the virus. It only shares a specific code with your body so that your body can recognize the virus later and fight it off. Some people will have mild side effects due to the vaccine. Symptoms like a low grade fever, a sore arm, or fatigue may happen after you get the vaccine. That is to be expected. It means that your body is building up its response to fight off this virus,” Dr. Khaldun said.
“The vaccine is 95 percent effective from what we know right now,” Dr. Torney said.
For the vaccine to be effective, two doses are required, health officials said.
“You should know that you have to come back to receive a second dose of the vaccine. For the Pfizer vaccine that is now here in Michigan, people have to return to get the second dose of the vaccine three weeks after the first. For the Moderna vaccine that we expect to also be authorized later this month, you will come back to get your second dose four weeks after the first,” Dr. Khaldun said.
Dr. Khaldun said people should continue to take precautions against the virus as they get vaccinated.
“After you get your vaccine you will still need to wear your mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands frequently,” Dr. Khaldun said. “While the vaccine appears to be very effective preventing COVID-19 disease and those who come in contact with the virus, more research must be done to see if people who got the vaccine can still spread the virus to other people.”
Dr. Torney said people who have had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated, although he did recommend that people who have had it in the last 90 days should wait in order to allow others to be vaccinated.
“Yes, if you’ve had COVID in the past it is still recommended that you get the vaccine,” Dr. Torney said.
Dr. Christine Nefcy, Munson Healthcare Chief Medical Officer, said Munson Healthcare expected to receive its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines “between December 15 and 17” and planned to “begin administering first doses on Friday, December 17.”
Dr. Nefcy’s presentation during the Munson Healthcare online press conference on December 15 said Phase I of the “limited dose availability” part of its vaccination effort includes three tiers: “Tier 1A: Healthcare personnel and long term care residents; Tier 1B: Essential workers: people who play a key role in keeping essential functions of society running and can not socially distance in the workplace (e.g. education sector, food and agriculture, utilities, police, firefighters, corrections officers, transportation); Tier 1C: High risk adults and adults 65 years or older.”
Dr. Nefcy said Munson Healthcare’s initial doses would go to “staff and providers working directly with COVID-19 patients in our highest risk areas” such as “emergency departments, urgent care clinics,” and ICUs.
District Health Department #10 officials said they expect their first shipment in “late December” and it will be the Moderna vaccine, “number of doses unknown.” District Health Department #10, which covers 10 northern Michigan counties (including Crawford), said it expects to also get shipments of the Pfizer vaccine after its initial batch of Moderna vaccines.
District Health Department #10 officials said they plan to “support Munson (Healthcare) in their vaccination efforts” and “hold vaccination clinics” for their “vaccination clinic staff, EMS staff, and medical first responders starting the week of (December 28).”
Healthcare officials said they are relieved that the vaccination process is beginning.
“We are very grateful we have a vaccine in sight,” said Dr. Nefcy.
“The arrival of vaccines is so important. It means 2021 will be a better year and the end of the pandemic is coming,” Dr. Khaldun said.