In the next few weeks, we expect the FDA to approve the first two COVID-19 vaccines. Within days of that approval, healthcare sites across the nation will begin receiving the first wave of vaccine.
As of today, Riverside Health System is among the four of the 25 sites in Virginia prepared to receive the vaccine. Over the past few months, Riverside has been preparing for the arrival of the vaccine by increasing its cold storage capacity. The System has also taken the lead in working with other health systems across the state to coordinate an efficient and effective strategy for implementing this immense inoculation program as soon as the vaccine becomes available.
Vaccines will be available at hospitals and physicians’ offices, and the Virginia Department of Health is working through the federal pharmacy partnership to deploy a large network of vaccination sites at CVS, Walgreens and other channels that can be more accessible to the public.
When will vaccinations be available?
Information on the exact timing for vaccine availability is in constant flux. It depends on a number of variables including when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grants approval, how many doses are ready at that time, and how long it takes to get the vaccine to the designated receiving facilities. Riverside will continue to post updates as more information becomes available.
What is known is that the initial shipment will be limited. There won’t be enough doses to vaccinate everyone immediately, so distribution will roll out in phases. Groups with the greatest need, established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Virginia Department of Health, will be prioritized to receive the first round of vaccinations.
The order of vaccine distribution phases (most likely based on final ACIP recommendation)
Phase 1a: Healthcare providers including frontline caregivers, emergency responders and hospital cleaners; residents of long-term care facilities.
Phase 1b: Essential workers in high-risk fields such as education, food and agriculture, public utilities, emergency response, prisons and transportation
Phase 1c: People with high-risk medical conditions; people older than 65.
Phase 2: People with moderately high risk medical conditions; residents and staff in homeless shelters and group homes: inmates younger than 65 in jails, prisons and detention centers.
Phase 3: Young adults and children (if the vaccine is determined safe for them); workers in industries such as hotels, banking, higher education and manufacturing.
Phase 4: All other U.S. residents.
Vaccine efficacy and safety
The latest data shows the two COVID-19 vaccines to be nearly 95% effective, with no serious safety concerns revealed by Phase 3 clinical trial interim analysis.
Vaccine developers, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, have filed emergency use authorization (EAU) applications with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA will review the Phase 3 clinical trials for both vaccine candidates in December. Both companies claim they will have tens of millions of doses ready to ship by the end of the year, followed by hundreds of millions of doses in 2021.
Riverside is here for you when you need it most.
Riverside Health System exists to support our community’s health. That’s a duty we take very seriously. In times like these, Riverside is even more aware of the importance of leveraging our resources to ensure that all of our neighbors have access to the health care they need.