October 7, 2020 By [email protected]_84 Off

Virginia Alerts Doctors Of Potential Vaccine As Early As Nov. 1

VIRGINIA — The Virginia Department of Health sent a letter to health-care providers informing them that the department is preparing for the potential release of a vaccine for coronavirus as early as Nov. 1. The letter represents a “call to action” to health-care providers to prepare to provide a vaccine, but does not mean that a vaccine will be available next month, the department said.

The VDH is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and stakeholders in Virginia to identify planning, logistical and operational considerations as part of its statewide vaccination plan, Virginia Health Commissioner Norman Oliver said in the letter to health-care providers, dated Oct. 2.

The department is inviting health-care providers, including pharmacies, to complete a form to indicate whether they intend to administer a COVID-19 vaccine to their patients and staff once it is available. The information collected will allow the VDH to set up necessary accounts for vaccine ordering and reporting.

Health-care providers who are interested in administering the vaccine can visit the department’s website and click on the link to complete COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Intent Form.

“The planning that we’re doing is to be ready should a vaccine be available as early as Nov. 1,” Christy Gray, director of the Division of Immunization at the VDH, told Patch Wednesday. “There’s no specific information that we have to guarantee a vaccine will be available. It’s just that we want to have all the pieces in place because it’s a very complex logistical operation.”

The health department wants to have information from providers who plan to administer the vaccine, so that the vaccine can be shipped to them as soon as it is ready, Gray said.

The Nov. 1 timeframe for a potential release of a COVID-19 vaccine is not based off any known information, she emphasized.

“If a vaccine is available, it will be based on the safety and efficacy information and data out of the trials that have been reviewed and approved by the FDA and the CDC advisory committee,” she said. “We are not saying that a vaccine is available. We are just preparing so that if it does become available, Virginia is ready and our providers are ready.”

As of Wednesday, the VDH reported that 153,691 people in Virginia had tested positive for the coronavirus, in increase of 509 positive cases from Tuesday. The department also reported 3,303 people have died from COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 12 deaths from Tuesday.

Nationwide distribution of any COVID-19 vaccine will be a joint venture between the CDC and the Department of Defense, Oliver said in the letter. The CDC notified the VDH that if vaccine manufacturers “are successful in developing a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine, distribution and administration could begin in the coming months,” he said.

Oliver emphasized that the VDH will ensure any COVID-19 vaccine is distributed equitably and to those who most need it. “This includes implementing a registration system to allow facilities to identify anticipated need for vaccine, including an estimate of the population they serve by risk factor,” he wrote. “This data will be used to prioritize vaccine shipments in accordance with CDC recommendations.”

“Our current planning scenario is to expect and be ready for a November 1 release of a new vaccine(s). In this planning scenario, the amount of vaccine expected is limited and, therefore, will need to be prioritized,” he said. “Over time, the volume of vaccines is expected to increase, thereby allowing the general population to be vaccinated.”

The health department is planning for the possibility of several vaccines from manufacturers with varying storage requirements — refrigerated, frozen and ultra cold — and varying vaccine schedules.

Oliver’s letter represents an early part of the process of ensuring health care providers are prepared to administer a vaccine. Many details of the program still need to be developed. The CDC, for example, has not indicated whether patients will need one or two doses of the vaccine.

Gray said the VDH’s planning process for a COVID-19 vaccine is based on a CDC playbook that was published in September. The playbook informs states how to “plan and operationalize a vaccination response to COVID-19 within their jurisdictions.”

The vaccine will be in limited supply at the start of the vaccination program, which will mean only certain people will receive it at the beginning of the process. “Priority groups will need to be determined. The determination has not been completed yet,” she said.

This article originally appeared on the Fairfax City Patch

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