SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio health care workers are preparing for the first COVID-19 vaccines and putting distribution plans in place to ensure their effectiveness.
A panel of experts met at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday to decide who will get the new COVID-19 vaccines first.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13-1 to recommend priority be given to health care workers and nursing home residents in the first days of any coming vaccination program when doses will be very limited.
Dr. Gregory Bowling, Infectious Disease Specialist at University Health is very optimistic.
“It’ll be a small amount initially likely going to go to San Antonio and University Health System, so in the beginning with the limited amount will likely be prioritized to first responders and health care personnel,” he said.
The exact number of doses to show up first at hospitals and health care facilities is a complete unknown today.
“Initially, I think we we’re hopeful to get enough for a few thousand courses because, actually, the courses are going to be two doses — one dose and in a few weeks later, another dose. And so we’re going to want to make sure we have enough that everybody can finish a full course,” Bowling said.
Making sure all the San Antonio health care personnel get both doses initially has twofold logic. They need to make sure there are enough vaccinated medical personnel getting the full 95% effectiveness while caring for the increasing number of COVID-19 positive patients, but also for those who will turn around and be administering the shots to the elderly, those at risk, and then the general population.
There’s also concern locally to ensure enough proper storage for massive amounts of dosing, particularly when preparing for the Pfizer vaccine. “You have to have dry ice and appropriate coolers to be able to move it so that it is effective when you get it to the people who need it,” Bowling said.
These logistics are not so challenging for the Moderna vaccine, which requires regular refrigeration to store instead of 70-below zero temperature.
In a perfect world, San Antonio will be able to get a version of a vaccine in two weeks, with it finally becoming widely available to the general public by March. The regular flu shot drives will provide the best distribution plan, according to Dr. Bowling, who said it may soon just be a matter of driving up to the local drug store to get your coronavirus protection.