The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) says it continues to make progress with its COVID-19 vaccine distribution planning efforts.

Vaccine authorizations and approvals

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received its first Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) application from a COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer on November 20. This is encouraging news about the potential for vaccines to be used as a prevention tool to control the pandemic. An EUA allows the FDA to make a product available during a declared state of emergency before it has a full license.

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet December 10 to review the EUA application. If the EUA is approved, the vaccine will then be vetted by the western states’ Scientific Safety Review Workgroup.

This workgroup will provide another layer of scrutiny and expert review to this process and should take about one to two days. This will be done while the vaccine is still being processed and shipped, so it should not cause any delay in making vaccine available to people in Washington.

First vaccine arrival

The DOH is hopeful it will have a vaccine to begin administering by mid-December. The federal government has given the agency an estimate of 62,400 doses of the Pfizer vaccine for our initial allocation. They have also told the agency it should receive an estimated total of around 200,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of December. Regular weekly shipments should begin in January.

The DOH does not have an estimate yet on the Moderna vaccine.

The first people eligible to receive vaccine are high-risk workers in health care settings. This is called phase 1A. More information about vaccine phases will be shared in the coming weeks.

The vaccine candidate made by Pfizer must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures. Fortunately, locations that do not have ultra-cold storage capacity can still store this vaccine in the special thermal shipper the vaccine comes in. This allows additional sites to receive the vaccine as long as they can vaccinate at least 975 people in 20 days. The DOH is also working on a policy that will allow hospitals that don’t expect to vaccinate 975 people to transfer extra vaccine to other enrolled facilities. This will reduce wasted vaccine.

Provider enrollment

Providers who have fully enrolled in the COVID-19 Vaccine Program by Dec. 6 will be eligible to receive part of the first shipment. As of Nov. 25, there were 54 providers fully enrolled, with many more applications partially completed or pending approval. The DOH encourage clinics, pharmacies, and hospitals to enroll in the program soon to make the deadline. Enroll at www.COVIDVaccineWA.org.

The DOH says it will coordinate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ship vaccine directly to enrolled providers once vaccine is available. Providers will then be responsible for storing and administering the vaccine. The agency is meeting with enrolled and interested providers regularly to provide updates and technical assistance. It will not know until early December which facilities will get vaccine first.