The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) announced Monday that COVID-19 vaccines are on the ground in Washington state, and this week, the first doses will be administered to high-risk health workers, as well as staff and residents of long-term care facilities.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is a two-dose vaccine, given 21 days apart. Clinical trial data show the vaccine is 95% effective at preventing COVID-19 infection starting seven days after the second dose, according to a Dec. 14 DOH news release. Individuals will not be considered fully protected until one to two weeks after they receive the second dose. The clinical trials revealed no major unanticipated adverse events.
“This vaccine is a sign of hope that the pandemic is something we can overcome,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman in the news release. “We still have a long way to go to beat COVID-19, but this is the tool that will start saving lives immediately.”
“We believe that if everything goes according to plan, we’ll have most people in Washington vaccinated by mid-summer,” said Michele Roberts, one of the leaders of the DOH COVID-19 vaccine planning group. “The rapid development of these vaccines, with such a high rate of efficacy, is a historic achievement, and will help us defeat COVID-19.”
The state expects to receive 62,400 doses of vaccine this week. The first distribution will go to 17 sites across 13 counties. The first doses of vaccine will go to people in Phase 1a. This phase includes high-risk workers in health care settings, high-risk first responders, and patients and staff of long-term care facilities. State health officials estimate around 500,000 people in Washington will be eligible for the vaccine in phase 1a.
In this first phase of vaccination, DOH will only be sharing the names of counties receiving vaccine, and the number of doses each county will receive. As the state expands to vaccinating broader groups in future phases, officials will share details about where vaccine is located and let communities know how and where to get it.
The federal government has given the state an estimated total distribution of 222,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of December. Regular weekly shipments should begin in January.
A second pharmaceutical company, Moderna, submitted an EUA application Nov. 30. This application will be reviewed Dec. 17. If the EUA is granted and the Moderna vaccine approved by the Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, the state should get about 183,800 doses by the end of December as well.
State officials will know more about who will be vaccinated in later phases from guidance made by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. You can view the interim plan on the coronavirus vaccine webpage, CovidVaccineWA.org.
The allocation and prioritization guides for future vaccine phases will be shared by the DOH in the coming weeks.
Emergency Use Authorization issued for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
The FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) on Dec. 11 for use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in people aged 16 and older. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) also voted to recommend this vaccine for use in persons aged 16 and older for the prevention of COVID-19.
The Scientific Safety Review Workgroup – which includes Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado and California – met December 10-11 to review the safety and efficacy data for the vaccine. The 17-member workgroup voted unanimously to recommend the vaccine for immediate use.