Pending FDA approval, the Fishers Health Dept. expects to receive COVID-19 vaccinations within the next three weeks.
All 50 U.S. states have the responsibility of formulating their own distribution and management plans, and the federal government has a few contracts with pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens to provide vaccinations for long-term care facilities.
Fishers Health Dept. Public Health Director Monica Heltz said her department will be involved at the 1-B phase of the vaccination distribution plan. The first phase, Phase 1-A, will include vaccinations being sent to 50 hospitals in the state for health care workers. The second part of phase 1 is Phase 1-B, in which the most vulnerable populations will be vaccinated.
“As things progress and vaccine availability grows and we get through those groups, Phase 2 is essential workers, such as vaccinating essential workers like police, fire, teachers and those groups,” Heltz said. “Then we will move onto general public vaccinations, which is Phase 3.”
Heltz said she’s not sure how long the vaccination process for each phase will take, which is largely dependent on how fast manufacturers can produce vaccines. The FHD will offer the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and depending on the FDA’s emergency authorization, the FHD could receive them within three weeks. The FDA was scheduled to discuss the emergency authorization during its Dec. 10 meeting.
Heltz said she estimates the vaccinations will be available to the general public by spring 2021.
“It depends on how fast we receive them and how many people decide to take the vaccine,” Heltz said.
Children and pregnant women are not considered part of the general public because the vaccine studies weren’t conducted on those groups. Vaccination trial phases recently began for children ages 12 and up.
For the first group of vaccinations, health care workers will be instructed on which hospital they will visit to receive the vaccine. During the second phase, Heltz said she assumes workers will have to show proof of employment.
The vaccines will be free to the patient and the health department. Fishers officials didn’t respond to multiple requests on how the Fishers Health Dept. plans to store the vaccine. The vaccines will be delivered in two doses. The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is administered three weeks after the first, and the second dose of the Moderna vaccine is administered four weeks after the first. Heltz said it’s uncertain how long the antibodies from the vaccine will last and if the vaccines will need to be readministered each year.
“The (vaccine) study hasn’t been going on for more than a year, so we don’t know how long the antibodies will last and whether it will cover however many varieties of COVID there are,” Heltz said. “We don’t know the answer to that yet, but we are planning and anticipating that it might be a seasonal thing.”
Heltz said the COVID-19 vaccines are a new type of immunization that doesn’t carry live or dead versions of the virus.
“It’s a little different from most vaccines, which the vast majority have an inactivated virus like with the flu,” Heltz said. “(The COVID-19) vaccine is based on mRNA vaccine development, which has the ability to make a viral protein, which is a protein our body recognizes as potentially threatening and triggers us to make those antibodies.”
A network for vaccinations
As the Fishers Health Dept. waits for the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, it will continue to increase its network for vaccinations so people will have several options on where to receive immunizations.
“We are looking at other partnerships to continue to expand those networks depending on the supply (of vaccines) so we have multiple opportunities for people to obtain the vaccine,” Fishers Health Dept. Public Health Director Monica Heltz said.
For more, visit fishers.in.us.