State DOH submits first draft of vaccination plan

It remains to be seen when a vaccine for COVID-19 will be available, but the state has completed the first version of its vaccination plan to the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The paperwork lays out the state’s Department of Health’s preliminary plan, and the steps it will take when an approved vaccine becomes available.

The plan covers specific actions the state will take, including identifying and recruiting COVID vaccination providers; training providers on proper storage, handling and administration and effective vaccine promotion; and monitoring vaccine administration data.

State officials stressed the first draft that will be updated as new information becomes available.

Michele Roberts, acting assistant secretary with executive oversight for COVID-19 vaccines, said: “This is essentially a living document. But the one thing that won’t change is our focus on equitable distribution of the vaccine as a priority.”

The state has pledged to procure feedback from disproportionally affected communities and ensure vaccine materials are accessible to all. The DOH has engaged with communities and industry sectors that are at highest risk for contracting and spreading COVID, such as health care workers and providers, early learning providers, essential workers and businesses, and first responders.

Washington has received $5 million in federal funding for coronavirus vaccine preparation.

Officials believe the state is in a good position to administer a potential vaccine to its network of agencies, local and tribal governments, community leaders and health care providers, and to build public confidence in the effectiveness of the vaccine in order to achieve widespread distribution.

The state will likely have to have a phased approach when it comes to vaccination, as there almost certainly will not be enough to offer it to every resident. In the first phase, possible target groups include high-risk workers already mentioned along with older adults in congregate settings, and people of all ages with co-morbidities — though the last group will have to be broken down, as about three million Washingtonians fit that description.

The CDC has estimated that about 20 to 40 million doses of the vaccine will be available at first. The federal government will cover the cost but it is possible that health care providers may charge a fee for the office visit, but health insurance will mostly like cover those costs, state officials said.

Final guidance from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to identify specific groups recommended for vaccination in Phase 1 will be provided. Also in Phase 1, the state will likely utilize specific vaccination locations for immunization rather than a traditional vaccine ordering process through the state, and include development of targeted provider sites similar to the early stages of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine distribution.

In Phase 2, defined as a “large number of doses available” that is “likely sufficient supply to meet demand,” there will be a wider range of places to receive the vaccine, such as community health centers, pharmacies, health care providers, long-term care facilities and congregate living facilities. The vaccine would be available more broadly to the public, and the state would keep a focus on increasing access for critical populations.

When the state reaches Phase 3, in which supply is sufficient, but demand is slowing, the DOH will use routine provider networks to continue to reach critical populations — including the incarcerated, the homeless, college and university students, people living and working in any congregate setting, rural communities, people with disabilities, and people who are uninsured or under-insured.

The plan can be found at doh.wa.gov.

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