John Young, M.D., MBA

Because of timeliness and fluidity of information, I hesitated writing about the COVID-19 vaccine in a quarterly column. However, I’d be remiss to not address the importance of this topic, since news of the pandemic and its spread dominated not only hearts and minds, but also healthcare headlines for the first three quarters of 2020.

With anticipation building, news in quarter four shifted to details surrounding the warp speed-to-market of a preventative vaccine, offering what many hope is a glimpse toward some end in sight to what has been an unforgettable year in world history, to say the least.

HealthTrust offered a vaccine webinar in mid-November, providing nearly 700 attendees with information on the numerous U.S. candidates seeking approval and what healthcare providers need to do to prepare for the vaccine’s arrival. HealthTrust colleagues Jason Braithwaite, PharmD, MS, BCPS, and Karen Bush, MSN, FNP, BC, NCRP, offered their insights on clinical and operational topics that included the logistics related to the highly complex distribution of this vaccine, with both delivery and storage impacted by the ability to maintain a cold chain.

Scaling distribution

Operation Warp Speed (OWS), led by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense, will assist in delivering 300 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The distribution of these vaccines has been described as the hardest undertaking since WWII. At the time of this writing, military liaisons and regional coordinators are collaborating on how vaccines will be prioritized, packaged and shipped.

OWS is utilizing the Tiberius platform to integrate data related to manufacturing, clinical trials, supply chain, allocation, state and territory planning, delivery and administration. All 50 states submitted COVID-19 distribution plans which will help the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices determine how to prioritize allocation of the limited doses that will be available initially. Using several logistical factors, Tiberius will compute the quantities to be allocated to each jurisdiction; the jurisdictions will use the data to decide where every allocated dose will be distributed. These decisions will then be sent to distributors to complete delivery across the country.

Setting expectations

Based on interim data, Physician Advisor Kelly Moore, M.D., MPH, President of the Vaccine Advisor and Associate Director of Immunization Education with the Immunization Action Coalition, shares “The Planning & Logistics Involved in Delivering a COVID-19 Vaccine” that scientists expect the two-dose COVID-19 vaccine to perform similarly to the influenza vaccine and not to provide a level of full protection as, say, the measles vaccine. While it will be a critical tool in fighting this pandemic, wearing masks, practicing good hand hygiene and distancing are behaviors that will remain essential for the foreseeable future.

John Young, M.D., MBA
Chief Medical Officer, HealthTrust
Executive Publisher & Editor-at-large, The Source magazine

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