Answering Your Questions about the Covid Vaccine

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Hey, friends! In case you haven’t heard, on Friday, the FDA granted an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the first COVID vaccine developed by Pfizer + BioNTech. It is expected they will also grant an EUA to Moderna for their vaccine as early as next week. That’s two highly effective and safe vaccines available by the end of 2020 – just nine months after this virus came onto the scene.

We’ve been fielding a lot of questions about the new vaccine, and you know our motto here at LBMD – Knowledge is Power! So today, we’re sharing facts about the vaccine, because the more you know the better. 😊 Keep reading! 

How does the vaccine work? 

The vaccine introduces something called mRNA into our body where it causes our cells to produce a protein unique to COVID-19. Our immune systems respond to these proteins by removing them and creating a memory of how to recognize and remove them, should they be introduced in the future through exposure to the actual virus. There are no actual viral particles in the vaccine, thus it cannot “cause” infection.   

How will the vaccine be distributed?

There are some major challenges, due to a complicated shipping system requiring ultra-cold storage. The current vaccine needs to be kept at a temperature of about -94 degrees Fahrenheit!  Thankfully, UPS and Fed Ex have been working to create adequate systems and will divide and conquer to reach every zip code in the U.S. Michigan is expected to receive a limited amount of vaccine in the coming week. In the beginning, hospitals, pharmacies, and local health departments will be the first to administer the vaccine. Later, the vaccine will become available to outpatient clinics. 

Who will be first to get the vaccine? 

According to the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS), “distribution of the vaccine in Michigan will be in a phased approach. Michigan has prioritized vaccine allocation within CDC phases, with an emphasis on both ensuring the continuing functioning of the health care system and essential services in the community and protecting people at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness.” 

 

The phased approach will look something like this and roll out over the course of up to 20 weeks:

  • Phase 1A includes paid and unpaid persons serving in health care settings who have direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials and are unable to work from home, as well as residents of long-term care facilities.
  • Phase 1B includes workers in essential and critical industries, including workers with unique skill sets, such as non-hospital or non-public health laboratories and mortuary services.
  • Phase 1C includes people at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying medical conditions, and people 65 years and older.
  • Phase 2 is a mass vaccination campaign for all adults.

 

There is even more breakdown amongst phases, including those health care providers, essential workers, etc at the highest risk having priority over those in less risky environments. Here is the MDHHS outline for the further breakdown of this “phased approach”:

PHASE 1A: Paid and unpaid persons serving in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials and are unable to work from home, as well as residents in long-term care facilities.

  • 1A Priority One: Keep critical health care infrastructure open and functioning (i.e., hospitals, critical care units, and emergency medical response systems) through vaccination of staff who perform direct patient care and work in critical areas including:
    • Group A: Emergency medical service providers, including medical first responders
    • Group B: General medical floor
    • Group C: Emergency department
    • Group D: Intensive care units
  • 1A Priority Two: Prevent outbreaks and protect residents in long-term care facilities.
    • Group A: Vaccinate workers who have direct contact with large number of vulnerable residents. Note that this would include staff who come in and out of the buildings.
      • Skilled nursing facility staff
      • Psychiatric hospital staff
      • Homes for aged staff
      • Adult foster care centers staff
      • Assisted living facility staff
      • Home health care workers caring for high risk clients with large patient loads (e.g. people with a tracheostomy/ventilator at home)
    • Group B: Vaccinate vulnerable residents in long-term care facilities
      • Skilled nursing facility residents
      • Psychiatric hospital patients
      • Homes for aged residents
      • Adult foster care centers residents
      • Assisted living facility residents
  • 1A Priority Three: Keep necessary health care infrastructure functioning.
    • Group A: Vaccinate workers with direct patient contact who conduct high risk procedures (e.g., dentists, endoscopy, dialysis).
    • Group B: Vaccinate other workers who have direct patient contact, including outpatient, urgent care, ambulatory care, and home health care.
    • Group C: Vaccinate workers who have indirect patient contact with specialized skills critical to health care system functioning (e.g. hospital and public health laboratories, pharmacy).

PHASE 1B: Other essential workers who keep critical infrastructure open and functioning. MDHHS will consider the Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Program as well as continuity of operations plans in prioritization. MDHHS also will prioritize the essential role of staff providing education and care to children and staff working in congregate settings other than long term care.

  • K-12 school and child-care staff with direct contact with children
  • Some workers in 16 sectors of Critical Infrastructure Protection Program, including Chemical; Communications; Dams; Emergency Services; Financial Services; Government Facilities; Information Technology; Transportation Systems; Energy; Food and Agriculture; Health Care and Public Health; Nuclear Reactors, Materials and Waste; and Water and Wastewater Systems
  • Homeless shelters, corrections facilities (prisons, jails, juvenile justice facilities), congregate childcare institutions, and adult and child protective services
  • Workers with unique skill sets not covered above, such as non-hospital laboratories and mortuary services.

PHASE 1C: Individuals at high risk of severe illness due to COVID-19 infection.

  • Group A: Individuals age 65 years and older
  • Group B: Individuals 18-64 years with COPD, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, obesity or other conditions that puts them at high risk of negative COVID-19 outcome. (Note that pregnant women are currently not recommended to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.)

PHASE 2: Individuals 18 years of age or older. All individuals who did not otherwise fit into the earlier groups for whom the vaccine is recommended.

 

In addition, per MDHHS, “vaccination in one phase may not be complete before vaccination in another phase begins. The timing of the start of vaccination in a phase is dependent on the supply of vaccine from the manufacturer, how vaccine is allocated from the federal level to Michigan, and the capacity to administer the vaccine to populations.”

I’m sure you have plenty more questions! There just isn’t enough room to answer them all in one post or even in one blog. If you have a question not answered above, please DM me on Instagram or Facebook and I will make a point of addressing them in future posts or stories over the coming days and weeks!

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