The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Tuesday voted 13-1 on guidance for who should get the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The group recommends that health care providers and residents in long-term care facilities should be the first to get vaccinated under Phase 1a of the vaccine distribution plan.
“The vaccinators in the state of Connecticut, be it the hospital or eventually some of the drug stores, or doctors’ offices, we all have to start preparing now,” said Dr. Reginald Eadie, president and CEO of Trinity Health of New England.
Eadie also serves as the co-chair of Connecticut’s Vaccine Advisory Council. The group has been fine-tuning the state’s 77-page vaccine distribution plan. He says health care workers are already included at the top of the list, but their plan may need to be revised based the ACIP recommendations and how many doses of vaccine are available.
“We won’t have enough vaccine for the first set distribution so we may have to prioritize their priorities,” said Eadie.
He says those conversations are happening now ahead of the anticipated Pfizer vaccine approval next Thursday, following the FDA review of the company’s vaccine data.
“A lot of work to do, a lot of decisions to be made, and a very short period of time because we’re expecting the vaccine to be here in Connecticut somewhere around the thirteenth of this month,” said Eadie.
He’s co-chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee which consists of three subcommittees. Dr. Suzanne Lagarde, CEO Fair Haven Community Health Care, is on the allocation committee.
“I think it’s going to be a real game changer,” said Lagarde.
She estimates 300 people per day come to Fair Haven Community Health Care for COVID-19 tests, and more and more people are receiving positive results. Lagarde says they are relocating testing to a warehouse on starting Thursday to accommodate the crowd during winter months.
The vaccine will help people the center serves, many who are of color and hard-hit by COVID-19. She says outreach will be important.
“The critical point is going to be how long is it going to take us to get people vaccinated, and can we convince, you know, a large number of people this is a safe thing, and far safer than remaining exposed to a virus we know has killed so many people,” said Lagarde.
On the communication subcommittee is John Brady, vice president of AFT of Connecticut.
“It’s quite a diverse committee, people from all different backgrounds. And I’m glad that they included first of all union leadership,” said Brady.
His union represents health care workers and teachers.
“Right now, our health care workers are exhausted. They’ve been dealing with this for eight months, they haven’t had much down time,” said Brady.
A vaccine could be crucial as we approach the anticipated winter peak of COVID. Brady says there’s a concern for staff now that few hospitals from around the country have support staff to lend to others.
As a member of the communications subcommittee, his role is to share the importance of vaccination and answer questions people may have.
The team is planning billboards, traditional media and social media outreach. They also plan to work with community leaders from different segments of the population, including unions, teachers, health care workers and pastors.
“Other groups too, communities of color, unions, corporations, non-profits,” said Brady.
Information about the vaccine, how it works, its safety, the importance of taking both doses are all key points in their developing communication plan.
“The more people that we can get vaccinated with the vaccine that’s safe and effective, the less people that will be walking around with COVID.”