NC vaccine proposal: EMS providers, FFs among top priority group
Friday was the deadline for states to submit their vaccine plans to the CDC; North Carolina's plan includes four phases
By Lynn Bonner
The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)
RALEIGH, N.C. — There aren't going to be enough coronavirus shots for everyone who wants them when the first vaccines emerge from the testing phase and get approved for public use. So who gets them first?
North Carolina is proposing that healthcare workers at high risk of exposure, EMTs, firefighters and other essential workers, and long-term care staff and residents would be in line for the first doses.
That's according to the state's proposal for vaccine distribution sent to the CDC. Friday was the deadline for states to submit the plans.
People at high risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, especially those who work at jobs with a high risk of exposure or living in congregate settings would also be part of Phase 1 of vaccine distribution, when supplies are limited.
"At the beginning, we need to understand that there is only going to be a limited supply of those vaccines, so we're going to have to prioritize certain folks who will be able to get access to that vaccine at first," said Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, at a press conference on Thursday, The News & Observer reported.
The state's goal is to immunize everyone who is eligible and wants to be vaccinated, the plan says.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a 57-page interim playbook last month asking states to make plans for a variety of scenarios. That includes when limited supplies of COVID-19 vaccine are available, when a large number of doses are available, and when there's a surplus.
The CDC suggests that healthcare workers, people at-risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and other essential workers be included in the first wave of people to be vaccinated.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the national Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS News on Wednesday that he expects to know by the end of the year whether there's a safe and effective vaccine. A vaccine could be widely available by April 2021, he said.
Cohen said Thursday that a number of vaccines are in trials now but have yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This week, Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson both halted their Phase III trials, according to numerous media reports, after safety concerns.
Cohen said that shows the process is "working right."
"They are looking to make sure that that all of the vaccines that come out of these trials, that would go for approval, are going to be safe and effective," she said. "And so I think the process is working as intended."
Four phases of distribution
North Carolina's 145-page interim plan, prepared by the vaccination planning team, describes four phases of vaccine distribution.
It estimates that up to 951,000 people would be in Phase 1.
Phase 2 would kick in when both vaccine supply and demand are high and would involve vaccinating up to 1.57 million people. Phase 2 includes teachers and school staff, migrants workers in congregate living arrangements who don't have two or more chronic conditions and incarcerated people. It also includes residents of homeless shelters, and frontline workers, who are relatively healthy, adults 18-64 years old with one chronic condition, and people 65 and older with one or no chronic conditions.
Phase 3, described as the time when there's low demand and plenty of supply, would include up to 767,000 people -- workers in critical industries that weren't part of the first two phases, and students. Getting people vaccinated in this phase will look a lot like the seasonal flu campaign, the state plan says.
Everyone else, up to 4 million people, would be in Phase 4.
The state drew up its plan under the assumption that limited vaccine doses will be available at the end of this year, with the supply increasing in 2021. The plan also assumes people will need two doses of the vaccine and includes how the people will be reminded to get their second dose.
The plan anticipates that people are going to be hesitant to get vaccinated. A recent Gallup poll found that half of Americans won't get an FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine.
The state plan includes a communication effort that will aim to convey the benefits and risks of a vaccine, help people make informed decisions, and let them know where they can get shots.
(c)2020 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)