St. Luke’s University Health Network will be among the initial group of hospitals in Pennsylvania to receive the recently-approved and much-anticipated COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 1a of the nationwide effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a pivotal moment in our fight against COVID,” said Jeffrey Jahre, MD, infectious disease expert and St. Luke’s Senior Vice President of Medical and Academic Affairs. “The world has been waiting for this vaccine, and we are on the cusp of being able to provide it.”
St. Luke’s is prepared to receive its first supply this week. However, the quantity will be limited and prioritized based on a structured plan provided by federal and state agencies. The general public’s ability to receive the vaccine is still several weeks–and may be months–away.
The Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has pre-determined the rollout of the vaccine and broken the timeline into three phases. Phase 1a will deliver limited supplies of the vaccine to health care institutions around the country and will be administered ONLY to front-line health care workers, EMS first responders and residents in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes.
“While there are different opinions on who should be vaccinated first, the CDC and the Department of Health have decided that health care workers and EMS first responders receive initial priority due to their high risk of exposure to COVID-19, and the need to maintain a healthy workforce to continue to provide care,” explained Peter Ender, MD, St. Luke’s Chief of Infectious Disease.
“Even among health care workers there will be flexibility to determine who should be vaccinated in the initial days of the roll-out,” Ender said. “These decisions are being made by a committee with multiple areas of expertise including a medical ethicist.”
“As for our older adults in nursing homes,” he added, “it’s important that we prioritize those who have the most difficult time fighting off the virus.”
The next phase, said Ender, will include a larger supply and will cover the same individuals from Phase 1a (the vaccine is a two-part shot) as well as essential workers, such as education, food service and transportation personnel.
This news comes on the heels of the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
“While there is still a lot to learn about the vaccines, I have confidence in our scientific and medical communities and their governing bodies,” Jahre said. “I will be getting the vaccine when it’s my turn.”
Who gets the vaccine and when?
Who receives the vaccine in what order is not up to any individual hospital or health care provider. Vaccine allotments are determined by each state’s Department of Health, and distribution is governed by the ACIP’s recommended phased approach:
Phase 1a (current phase)
There is a limited supply of the vaccine. Initial efforts will focus on reaching the following populations:
- Health care personnel with direct or indirect exposure to COVID-19 patients, including EMS first responders.
- Residents of long-term care facilities (e.g. nursing homes).
- Phase 1a critical populations who were not yet vaccinated.
- Essential workers (e.g. employees in the education, food & agriculture, utility, police & firefighter, corrections and transportation sectors).
- Remaining individuals from Phase 1b.
- Adults with high-risk medical conditions.
- Adults who are 65 and over.
Following the rollout of phases 1a through 1c, recommendations will be made by the ACIP for rollout to the remainder of the population. The above plan is subject to change, and updates can be found here. Additional information about future phases of vaccine distribution will be communicated as it becomes available.
For updates from St. Luke’s University Health Network, visit SLUHN.org/COVID-19.
Note: This local health news is brought to you in partnership with St. Luke’s University Health Network.