Local distribution of COVID-19 vaccine
Last week, we had an exciting development in our COVID-19 response: Carilion Clinic and Lewis-Gale health systems both received their initial COVID vaccine shipments and began vaccinating their frontline staff. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that the first priority group for the vaccine include healthcare workers as well as residents and staff of long-term care facilities. This first distribution of vaccine is going to healthcare workers who are at greatest risk of being exposed to COVID-19, including, but not limited to, healthcare professionals in the intensive care units, COVID-19 units, emergency departments, and urgent care centers.
Fortunately, at this time, we project that by the end of the month, Virginia will have secured enough vaccine to cover almost everyone in entire first priority group. As more vaccine becomes available at the local level, Carilion Clinic, Lewis-Gale, and the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts (RCAHD) will partner to ensure that vaccine gets into the arms of those in that group. In a parallel process across the state, CVS and Walgreens will be partnering with long-term care facilities to ensure their residents have access to vaccine. In addition to partnering with our local health systems, RCAHD is partnering with local fire chiefs to protect our first responders who are also in the first priority category.
Finally, we are partnering with smaller healthcare organizations in our local area to ensure that all eligible healthcare workers in rural or independent settings have access to vaccines. As of yesterday, over 130 organizations representing over 3,500 healthcare personnel have responded to our survey, noting their interest in the vaccine.
While the health department and our healthcare partners are experts at vaccine delivery, it is important to acknowledge that there will be some logistical challenges to delivering the COVID vaccine:
• We are working together to pilot a new Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s optional, web-based application that supports planning and execution for temporary, mobile, or satellite COVID-19 vaccination clinics.
• Vaccines will require two doses, and so coordination and communication will be important to ensuring that both doses are delivered.
• The vaccine is stored at very cold temperatures that add challenges to the logistics planning for vaccine delivery. The health department and our healthcare partners have been planning for these new aspects.
• Lastly, initial vaccine supply will be limited and thus require prioritization strategies.
We are confident that with the support of our partners and our community, we will be able to navigate these challenges. A phased rollout of a vaccine will be necessary until there is adequate supply for those who wish to be vaccinated. After this week, we anticipate that our community will begin to receive weekly shipments, so we are excited to work with our partners to vaccinate our community as quickly as resources allow. VDH has an updated webpage on the COVID-19 vaccine. I encourage you to explore to learn more: https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine/.
We are fortunate to be part of a community truly dedicated to collaboration. Working together, we will ensure that we can optimize local vaccination rates in a safe, timely, efficient, and effective way. Vaccine delivery is a core public health function, and we are prepared to fulfill our mission to support and protect the health of our public and we ask for your patience and your flexibility as we rise to meet this mission. And always remember, the more we do to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the safer we will be. Please do your part by continuing to take precautions such as staying home and remembering the “Three Ws: wash your hands, wear a mask, and watch your distance!”