Western States' Scientific Safety Review Workgroup approves use of COVID-19 Vaccine

Western States' Scientific Safety Review Workgroup approves use of COVID-19 Vaccine

Dec 14, 2020

Media Contact: Kelli Hawkins | | (509) 324-1539, c (509) 994-8968

Western States' Scientific Safety Review Workgroup approves use of COVID-19 Vaccine

SPOKANE, Wash. – Governor Jay Inslee, joined by Washington Department of Health (DOH) officials, announced today that the Western States' Scientific Safety Review Workgroup unanimously approved use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and Washington will receive its first allotment beginning Monday, Dec. 14, with administration beginning as early as Tuesday, Dec. 15. Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) confirmed that at least 3,900 will be sent to health care providers in Spokane County.

DOH officials say there will be 62,400 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for Washington State’s initial allocation, and Washington should receive an estimated total of around 200,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by the end of December. Regular weekly shipments should begin in January. There will be continual shipments of vaccine, so the first doses will be solely for first dose administration.

Dr. Francisco Velazquez, interim health officer for Spokane County, explained, “Everyone who wants the vaccine, will be able to get vaccinated eventually, but we will need to show patience and continue to be vigilant with the health measures until all the phases of vaccination plan have been completed.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have established phases of distribution, starting with individuals who are most at risk. The individuals that will be vaccinated in the first phase are those who work in health care and long-term care, have direct contact with those who are positive with COVID-19 and are unable to avoid such contact, as well as those who are most at risk of severe symptoms of COVID-19. If you do not fall into this category, you will be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in a later phase. Preliminary phases are outlined in the DOH COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, and may change as public health officials learn more during the first phase.

At this time, SRHD officials say there are currently about 22 healthcare organizations waiting approval to disseminate the vaccine in our county and surrounding counties.

Providence and MultiCare are likely two of the first healthcare organizations to receive the vaccine so that they can vaccinate their frontline health care workers and others in the community who meet the Phase 1 criteria. They have both the ability to store the vaccine at the required temperature and to utilize their own staff and processes to vaccinate.

Clinics, pharmacies, hospitals, and health care offices are encouraged to enroll. This document gives additional information concerning requirements for applying providers: Preparing to Enroll in the COVID-19 Vaccination Program.

Long-term care facilities can also enroll in a program that will provide COVID-19 vaccine for their residents and staff made available through a federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to residents in long-term care facilities. These facilities are strongly urged to register for this program. Participation is critical to ensure their vulnerable residents are among the first to receive a vaccine when it becomes available to them.

SRHD is working closely with the Washington Department of Health in following their state specific interim playbook as well as the CDC playbook for vaccine distribution. The playbooks list out each step in the plan for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to the public. These plans guide local and federal planning efforts. Continuous meetings are held at the federal, state, and local levels to ensure information is shared with those critical to the planning efforts. The information about the vaccines and their availability is constantly updating.

SRHD has created both a COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force and Advisory Group. Their purpose is to plan for future phases of the rollout and to work with community partners, social agencies and health care systems to ensure a coordinated effort. In addition, SRHD has experience in successfully-managed mass vaccination efforts during past epidemics such as H1N1, Mumps, Measles and Hepatitis A in a wide range of situations and scenarios. Those practices are currently being reviewed and revised to best meet the distribution needs of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The vaccine is a vital tool in our efforts to eliminate the COVID-19 virus from our community,” said Velazquez. “Getting vaccinated is how you can help our health care providers, our businesses, and our way of life to move forward,” said Velazquez.