As we ended the year 2020, two biopharmaceutical companies received emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA for their coronavirus vaccine. Most recently, Johnson and Johnson’s single-dose vaccine has also received EUA and is starting to be distributed to our communities.
While this is great news, it’s important to understand that although the COVID-19 vaccine is ready for public use, it won’t be available to everyone right away. Right now, the vaccine is still in limited supply and the plan is to distribute it in phases, based on the level of need, until our most vulnerable neighbors have had the opportunity to get vaccinated. But as soon as it’s your turn, we hope you’ll get your shot and encourage others to, too.
As the vaccine starts to be more widely available to our at-risk groups, “We need people to get this vaccine so that the community can return to some sense of normalcy and achieve that herd immunity we’ve been talking about,” says Alric V. Simmonds Jr., MD, AdventHealth General Surgeon, Chief Health Equity Officer and Chief Medical Officer.
Coronavirus Vaccine Distribution Phases
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created what they refer to as a “playbook” of guidelines for distributing the vaccine. This playbook will help ensure that there will be efficient, quick and reasonable distribution and administration of the coronavirus vaccine.
The CDC’s playbook guidelines recommend the following distribution plan:
Phase 1A: Health Care Personnel
The first people able to receive the coronavirus vaccine have been those who serve in health care settings, such as hospitals, assisted living facilities, pharmacies and other settings, including those not directly involved in patient care.
AdventHealth began vaccinating those who work as health care personnel in 2020, and as Dr. Simmonds put it, “I am really happy to take the vaccine. It’s an important step in us recovering from COVID-19. It’s a wonderful medical breakthrough and it’s a historical moment.”
Phase 1B: Essential Workers, Those With High-Risk Medical Conditions and Adults Over 65
Workers who are essential to continue critical businesses, such as food and agriculture, education and law enforcement, for example, would be included in this phase of vaccine distribution. People with high-risk medical conditions (including cancer, COPD and other illnesses) and adults aged 65 and older would also be included in this phase.
Phase 2: The Remainder of the Phase 1 Population and Critical Populations
This phase will offer the vaccine to anyone in the phase 1 population who wasn’t able to get access to the vaccine during the first phase. This second phase will also include critical populations, such as people at increased risk of acquiring or transmitting COVID-19, like college students, those living in shelters or people who are incarcerated.
Phase 3: People From Phases 1A, 1B and 2 Who Haven’t Gotten Vaccinated, Followed by Critical Populations and General Population
Though the CDC is creating guidelines for distribution, state and local officials will have the flexibility to administer the vaccine based on these people’s needs and the local demand.
The current administration of vaccines through AdventHealth is being delivered based on CDC and state government guidelines. For more information about when it might be your turn to receive the vaccine, we encourage you to sign up for email alerts at www.CoronavirusVaccineAlerts.com.
Unfortunately, there is no hard timeline to know when every person will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine. At this time, the CDC shared that as supplies increase down the road, all adults should be able to get vaccinated later in 2021.
Calming Nerves and Skepticism
“Vaccinations help populations of people survive grave illness,” he explains. “If you’ve gone to school, if you’ve played team sports, you’ve been vaccinated for measles, mumps, chickenpox, etc., so our bodies tolerate these things very well and they keep us safe.”
Even though vaccinations have been common in the United States for quite some time, there is still a large amount of fear and/or hesitance among our communities when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccination, particularly when it comes to Black Americans.
Dr. Simmonds explains, “People of color in this country have received intentional malady from government officials, and the community remembers that. There are atrocities that have been committed against people, that are historic in nature, but are readily available to the memory.” This is can be especially top of mind during a pandemic, when you think about a treatment being something that one must take into their own body, he says.
“So that distrust and hesitance is very real. We understand and we want to help people get to where they need to be to prevent this disease,” Dr. Simmonds explains.
Though he understands why some people are still unsure about the vaccine, Dr. Simmonds urges the community to look at the science behind it. “Please don’t let your fear prevent you from taking a vaccination that will save you,” he says. “If you do, you may end up like many of the patients who are in my ICU now — people whose families cannot be with them when they’re taking their last breath.”
According to the CDC, Black and Hispanic individuals are 2.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19. Over 375,000 Americans, including many people of color, have already died as a result of the disease. “So make the right choice — roll up your sleeve and get the shot,” Dr. Simmonds urges.
Staying Safe Until It’s Your Turn to Get Vaccinated
We know there’s a growing sense of urgency for things to get back to how they were pre-coronavirus, but we’re not there, yet. Cases are still rising in many parts of the world, and it’s not the time to start loosening your safety measures until the majority of our population has received the vaccine.
Remember these methods of protection to keep you and your family safe:
• Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose
• Disinfect high-touch surfaces in your home frequently
• In public and at home, wash your hands thoroughly and often (use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available)
• When you’re in public, always wear your face mask and stay 6 feet away from other people
If you’re sick, call or video visit with your doctor, stay home and avoid close contact with other people.
More Coronavirus News for You
We’re in this together. Visit the Coronavirus Resource Hub for more news and updates as they become available. To learn when it will be your turn to receive the vaccine, we encourage you to sign up for email alerts at www.CoronavirusVaccineAlerts.com.