On a day when the state recorded a record 1,090 people testing positive for COVID-19 and New Castle County’s testing site was swamped, Delaware officials issued a press release detailing what will happen now that a vaccine had been approved.
Gov. John Carney and Division of Public Health officials also took the opportunity Saturday evening to continue the campaign to get people to take the vaccine.
The plan released Saturday reflected exactly what has been talked about in the state’s weekly COVID-19 press conference:
Phase 1a — Health care personnel, emergency medical services agencies, and long-term care staff and residents will receive the vaccine first. That will start with 24 hours of the state receiving the vaccine.
Remainder of Phase 1: In early 2021, those who work in high-risk and critical infrastructure industries such as food processing, utilities, education, police and fire, those who work and live in congregate settings such as correctional facilities and homeless shelters, as well as those with certain underlying health conditions, and are aged 65 and older are likely to receive the vaccine.
Phase 2: (March 2021) Those with more moderate-risk for getting COVID-19 are eligible for receiving the vaccine. More details about specific groups in this phase will be provided as we get closer.
Phase 3: (Spring/Summer 2021) The general public can expect to receive vaccines through their primary health care providers, health centers and pharmacies as the vaccine becomes more widely available.
The vaccine is recommended for use by people aged 16 and older under the Emergency Use Authorization granted this week to by the Pfizer BioNTech drug. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted Saturday to recommend the use of the vaccine for individuals 16 and older, but it still must be officially authorized.
Delaware is expected to receive 8,775 initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine within the next few days. When it gets here, health care systems will be able to begin vaccinating their frontline employees within 24 hours.
“The arrival of the Pfizer vaccine is welcome news,’ said Gov. John Carney in the release. “But we are not in the clear yet. We are still in for a very difficult winter.”
He again urged people to wear a mask and not to gather with people beyond the people that are living in the home.
The state will not mandate the vaccine, but is strongly encouraging that people get vaccinated.
“The benefits from taking the vaccine far outweigh any potential risks,” said Dr, Karyl Rattay, director of Public Health, in the press release. “The vaccine will save Delawareans’ lives as more individuals develop immunity from the virus by taking it.”
Pfizer’s vaccine has undergone rigorous testing in three clinical trials that involved about 40,000 people, including those of color, different ages and genders, she said. People with underlying health conditions were included. Side effects have been minimal, Rattay said.
More clinical trials involving children under 16 are still needed, the press release said.
Pfizer reported no serious side effects from the vaccine, and there were no deaths linked to the vaccine itself, the release said., but it will continue to be monitored by the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness rate of 90 percent beats a flu vaccine’s 40 to 60 percent, the press release said. Like the flu vaccine, COVID-19 vaccine does not contain a live virus and cannot give individuals the coronavirus.
The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses about three weeks apart to be effective.
Public Health plans to remind individuals to get their second dose by sending reminder letters, providing automated phone calls and text messages and by patient record cards.