Counties cross Indiana prepare for COVID-19 vaccine distribution


INDIANAPOLIS — Roughly 50 hospitals across Indiana are preparing to administer a COVID-19 vaccine, according to state health officials during a briefing last week.

Good news about a vaccine could not come at a better time for the healthcare system.

AstraZeneca announced Monday that their coronavirus vaccine candidate reached up to 90% efficacy. The vaccine still requires regulatory approval before distribution.

Another company leading this front, Pfizer, requested emergency use authorization from the FDA for its COVID-19 vaccine. The FDA has scheduled a meeting of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee on December 10 to discuss the request from Pfizer, in partnership with BioNTech Manufacturing.

Moderna is not far behind. Early data for its COVID-19 vaccine suggests its efficacy is as strong as Pfizer’s vaccine. The company expects to seek emergency authorization as well.

Once a vaccine is ready for distribution, Indiana plans to administer it to people serving in healthcare settings, like hospitals or long-term care facilities.

Hospitals across the state, including Reid Health, are struggling with staffing amid a spike in COVID-19 cases. Dr. Thomas Huth, VP of medical affairs at Reid Health, said he will be one of the first in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available in Wayne County.

The campus is already setting up a vaccination clinic so they are ready when it is available for distribution.

“We have acquired a refrigerator that is capable of reaching the ultra low temperatures and capable of holding a lot of vaccine,” said Dr. Huth.

Dr. Huth said Reid Hospital’s vaccine distribution will cover four counties. In Phase 1-A, he expects they will vaccinate a minimum of 1,700 people.

“The state is reaching out to professionals who are licensed in the state and have residence in this area about how to sign up for a time slot,” he said.

Hamilton County is making preparations too. The county health department showed us a trailer they bought for testing and vaccinations.

“At the end of the day, we can dispense vaccine out of either of these windows. We can do it directly inside of here,” said Christian Walker, the public health preparedness coordinator for the Hamilton County Health Department.

Health officials expect to receive the Pfizer vaccine first. A team in Indiana will review the research before anyone administers it in the state.

The state has established five pilot sites for the administration of a COVID-19 vaccine. Those include Community Hospital in Munster, Clark Memorial in Jeffersonville, Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, IU Methodist in Indianapolis and Parkview Health in Fort Wayne.

Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer for the Indiana State Department of Health, said shipments of the vaccine could come as soon as two days after emergency use authorization is issued.

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