Now that the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines has arrived at selected hospitals across the nation, you may have questions about the vaccines and what it means to you, your family and the Boca Grande community.
What vaccines have been approved for use?
On Dec. 11, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for distribution. An emergency authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine from drug maker Moderna is expected Dec. 17. Both company’s vaccinations require two shots three to four weeks apart to achieve maximum effectiveness. There are currently about 60 potential COVID-19 vaccines being tested in human clinical trials in 18 countries.
How is the vaccine being distributed in Florida?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has endorsed a plan to prioritize the nation’s 21 million healthcare workers and 3 million residents of long-term care facilities. Florida expects to receive around 180,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The initial shipment to Florida arrived Dec. 14 and included 97,000 doses for medical workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle. Five large regional hospitals received the vaccine: UF Health Jacksonville, Advent Health Systems in Orlando, Tampa General, Jackson Memorial in Miami and Memorial Health in Hollywood. These hospitals will share vaccine supplies with another 25 local partner hospitals for their frontline caregivers. In addition, through a contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), CVS and Walgreens will administer 60,000 doses of the initial delivery to nursing home residents and staff, with the Florida Department of Health distributing another 21,000 to nursing homes.
Will there be enough vaccine to go around?
It is reported that Florida can expect another 350,000 to 400,000 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine very soon after that vaccine receives its emergency authorization. Gov. Ron DeSantis has indicated that these will be delivered to 150 hospitals around Florida. By the end of December, Florida could have an additional 800,000 to 1 million doses, according to Florida emergency management director Jared Moskowitz – about half the amount the governor initially anticipated.
With a population of 21.5 million, initially there will not be enough product for everyone in Florida who wishes to be vaccinated. Gov. DeSantis plans a phased approach to vaccine distribution.
- The top priority are healthcare workers who are in high risk and high contact environments.
- Next are residents of long-term care facilities who are at the greatest risk and could benefit the most from the vaccine.
- Then, any supplies remaining of the initial allocation will be earmarked for broader distribution to the 65 and over community and those who have significant comorbidities.
- A phased approach would expand to the general public as more doses become available.
When will a COVID-19 vaccine be available on Boca Grande?
Like all providers, the Boca Grande Health Clinic is subject to national and state distribution plans, so we have very little, if any, control over the timing of when vaccine will be available on island. The Clinic is trying to position itself with the Florida Governor’s office and area healthcare systems to get closer to being part of the first phases of vaccinations. We will continue to try and partner with healthcare systems and leverage our membership in Healthnetwork as much as possible to gain access to the vaccines as early as possible but it’s likely that the Clinic won’t have COVID-19 vaccines on hand for many months. The Clinic will continue to provide updates as information becomes available in this ever-changing situation.
Is it safe? Will it work?
The FDA has rigorous scientific and regulatory processes in place to facilitate development and ensure the safety, effectiveness and quality of COVID-19 vaccines. The FDA approves vaccines with advice from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at the CDC, whose members are experts from around the country in the fields of immunology, infectious disease, public health and more. Data safety monitoring boards at the National Institutes of Health monitor every trial and scour the data for irregularities and safety concerns. Scientists and doctors, career professionals whose mission is safety and public health, staff all these institutions.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations have been evaluated to be safe and highly effective based upon clinical trials completed. FDA analysis affirms Pfizer’s stated vaccine effectiveness of 95 percent and Moderna’s stated effectiveness of 94.1 percent.
Will it cure COVID-19?
A vaccine for COVID-19 is not a cure, nor is it a license to return fully to normal. The new vaccines are expected to prevent people from getting sick with COVID-19. No one knows yet whether these vaccines will stop the spreading of the virus to others. Also, it will take many, many months to vaccinate enough of the population to make a difference, so people will still need to practice social distancing and wear masks, even once some have had a vaccine.
What can I do while I wait for the vaccine to become more readily available?
Until there is widespread availability of the vaccine, it’s vital that we remain on guard and take all of the appropriate measures to protect ourselves and our community from the spread of COVID-19. For your own health and to protect the health of those you love, please wear a mask, wash your hands, social distance, avoid gatherings of more than 10 and isolate or quarantine if ill.
Where can I get more information on COVID-19 vaccines?
- The CDC website answers the common questions about COVID-19 vaccines at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html.
- The FDA is another good resource for information that can be found at https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/counterterrorism-and-emerging-threats/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19.
- If you’d like to find where you stand in line for a COVID-19 vaccination, there’s an interesting tool developed by the great minds of today’s scientists that can predict when it might be your turn. The tool was made available by The New York Times on Dec. 3 at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/12/03/opinion/covid-19-vaccine-timeline.html.
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