CORONAVIRUS UTAH

Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Expected For Priority Workers Next Month

Nov 9, 2020, 7:51 PM | Updated: 7:57 pm
FILE (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)...
FILE (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Pfizer Inc. announced a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine could be ready for distribution next month, raising optimism nationwide and here in Utah.

The vaccine will be shipped soon, according to Rich Lakin, Utah’s immunization program manager, and stored at hospitals, pending federal approval for use.

The Utah Department of Health said they expect frontline health care workers to be vaccinated as early as December.

The state submitted its 46-page vaccination plan to the CDC several weeks ago.

Lakin said hospitals could start vaccinating their workers right after the vaccine gets approved, with the majority of Utahns getting the two-shot vaccine next summer.

“It is very optimistic for us,” said Lakin, responding to Monday’s news.

Pfizer plans to submit its vaccine for emergency use authorization after it achieves a safety milestone, which is expected in two weeks.

The drugmaker reported its vaccine was more than 90% effective. Lakin said that’s much better than the 60 or 70% some had expected.

“That’s a huge jump. That’s a major milestone in the vaccine,” he said. “If you have a vaccine that’s 90% effective, that’s awesome. That is really, really effective.”

UDOH officials now have a tentative timetable for the arrival of the ultra-cold vaccine from Pfizer in early December.

The vaccine, which needs to be stored at 100 degrees below zero, will be stored at the four major hospitals on the Wasatch Front and Dixie Regional Medical Center.

Pfizer officials said they’re hoping for federal approval of the vaccine in the next few weeks.

“If it gets the final approval, then the vaccine is there,” Lakin said. “Those hospitals don’t have to wait for it, and they can start vaccinating their staff.”

Then, depending on quantities of the vaccine, it will be available to other health care facilities, first responders, long-term care facilities and other vulnerable populations.

“Based on how much vaccine we have, we’ll just continue to move through more populations,” said Lakin.

They will vaccinate groups of people based on health priorities, said Lakin. If he were to make a guess, most Utahns could expect a vaccine sometime around July.

“We’ll do it as quickly as we can,” he said. “But we’re going to have to do it in waves.”

The Pfizer vaccine is administered in two shots, 21 days apart, and deemed effective a month later. It could take more than six months to immunize the majority of the adult population in Utah, so Lakin said we need to continue to mask up and keep our distance.

“It will still take some time for this vaccine to become effective,” he said.

Lakin said they’ve never handled a vaccine this way before. He expects complications because of the scope of the campaign, adding that everyone will need to be patient.

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Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Expected For Priority Workers Next Month