As the world hits all-time record highs for coronavirus infections and deaths, leaders around the globe are vying for doses of the newly-created COVID-19 vaccines through companies such as Moderna and Pfizer.
While none have yet been approved through the nations’ quality control organizations—like the United State’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or the European Union’s European Medicines Agency (EMA)—the United Kingdom became the first Western country to give emergency authorization to a coronavirus vaccine on December 2nd.
The UK administered its first dosage to 90 year-old Margaret Keenan Tuesday morning, and expects to continue inoculate about 400,000 people.
Although the vaccine has been given emergency authorization in the country, the European Medicines Agency will still work to approve the vaccine for EU usage by December 29 at the latest.
US health advisers from the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee are planning to meet Thursday, December 10 to review Pfizer’s vaccine proposal and possible approval. A similar meeting is scheduled for December 17 to discuss Moderna’s vaccine candidate.
FDA officials say that their decision to approve either vaccine could come within days of the meetings.
In the meantime, three former United States presidents—Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton—have volunteered to receive their COVID-19 vaccines on camera to help promote public confidence in the medication’s safety. Bush was reportedly the first to reach out to Fauci, with the other two presidents following suit.
On the state level, the vaccine continues to be closely-approaching reality, with vaccines coming to the state “within weeks,” according to Governor Bill Lee.
In a meeting with top state legislators last Thursday, Lee called the issue “complicated.”
“It’s changing every minute because the information that comes to us from the federal government is changing,” he said. “As the understanding of the vaccine’s manufacturer, the quantities, the dates of distribution those are all very fluid.”
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the timetable, Lee expressed optimism that a vaccine will make a huge difference, particularly for healthcare workers.
“We are now on the cusp of real hopeful development, and within just the next couple of weeks we will have vaccines in arms,” added the governor. “And we’ll start the process of turning the tide on this.”
As previously reported by the Independent Appeal, Pfizer has launched a pilot delivery program for its COVID-19 vaccine in four U.S. States, including Tennessee.
The other states are Rhode Island, New Mexico and Texas.
The states were chosen based on their diversity of population, immunization infrastructure and variation of urban to rural settings.
Pfizer's vaccine has been shown to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19, though it is—as previously mentioned—still waiting on FDA approval.
The company plans to produce 100 million doses of the vaccine.
Pfizer has announced that they plan to send the first 56,550 doses of the vaccine directly to Tennessee hospitals for distribution among frontline healthcare workers by mid-December.
These will be tramsported in 58 trays, each holding 975 doses. One tray will be reserved in case of “spoilage” during transport.
Moderna will also be sending 100,000 vaccines to frontline healthcare workers in the state.
This number could potentially increase, depending on the pending FDA approval of the vaccine, which would then allow greater production.
The vaccine is taken in two dosages, requiring an even greater production amount. At least 21 days must pass between each dosage.
The state distribution plan details that 85 percent of Tennessee's vaccination stock will be distributed across its 95 counties based on population, 5 percent will be distributed equitably across the 95 counties (regardless of population or disease density) and 10 percent will be kept by the state for unanticipated needs.
In the first (and currently the most likely) phase of availability, considered to be when the supply of the vaccine is limited, the top priority for vaccinations will be first responders and front-line health care workers. The second priority is other health care workers, then Tennesseans with pre-existing conditions and illnesses that have a high risk of complicating the virus. Next, older populations and high-risk adults in care facilities like nursing homes, or densely populated facilities like mental health hospitals, prisons and congregate housing.
This is the plan currently in affect—Pfizer expects that this will entail about 450,000 Tennesseans.
In the second phase, in which the state expects to have an equal amount of vaccine-to-demand ratio, Tennessee will prioritize vaccination of staff in schools and childcare, older adults with pre-existing conditions and residents with illnesses that have a risk of complicating the virus. According to the plan. This stage would also allow workers in “critical infrastructure” industries (construction, food and beverage supply, utilities, public transportation etc.)
In the third—and best-case scenario—phase, when the vaccine has sufficient supply and demand slows down, it will be provided widely to young adults, children and others in densely populated settings. After that, it will be distributed to everyone else.
The state expects vaccine disbursement to involve “every hospital,” with priority going to areas that would see the most challenging and unpredictable patients. The plan will then move to county health departments and pharmacies, with particular focus on rural areas that do not have hospitals, like McNairy County. The state plans to ensure that there are “at least two vaccine administration sites per county.”
Vaccine producers and health experts alike warn that the vaccine will not see the immediate end of the coronavirus, however.
While it is currently proven that the vaccine will provide protection from the disease, it is not yet proven if it will prevent people from being carriers of the disease—placing those who do not take the vaccine at higher risk.
These questions are why the CDC says they will continue recommending mask wearing
That’s why the CDC says, for now, mask wearing will still be recommended even after vaccination.