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Health Watch: Series of plans being developed for Alaska vaccine distribution

With several variables standing in the way of one solid plan at this point, vaccine distribution could mirror previous efforts
Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 4:16 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has advised states to prepare for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine by November 1st.

Valerie McCarney, Nurse Consultant with Public Health Nursing in Alaska, explained that hard work is being done to keep people informed and plan for different scenarios regarding the distribution process. “It’s really hard to have a lot of this unknown, and I wish I could say ‘This is exactly what it’s going to be and these are all the different pieces that are going to go into that,’ but it’s really complicated.”

“Alaska has some unique things that are super helpful for us. We have our state immunization program through the section of epidemiology,” said McCarney, who also noted the state has a normal process for distributing vaccines.

“There’s still a lot to be kind of determined and sorted out, and there’s still so many questions, but it’s looking like those are going to go through the normal vaccine channels that they have in the past. So our immunization program is working really hard to make sure that everything’s streamlined, and that the process is going to be as smooth as possible,” she added.

According to McCarney, while there are unknowns regarding the locations of vaccine distribution, people enroll through the immunization program to receive vaccines. “The vaccine often will get shipped directly to the providers that will be then administering it -- whether it be pharmacies or the local clinics, [or] public health. That is kind of the process we’re planning for.”

McCarney clarified that there could be changes along the way. “We don’t know what this is going to look like. It really just depends on how the vaccine gets out. We don’t even have a vaccine yet that’s been identified,” she said, adding, “We’re trying to plan for a lot of different scenarios.”

Among these is a two-dose series, in which recipients would be administered two vaccinations three or four weeks apart.

McCarney said, “I think the administration will likely mirror a lot of what we’ve done in the past, [such as] going to get it from your provider. But things have changed since COVID hit.” She noted that the processes of vaccination may look different this year because of precautions to protect providers and recipients of vaccines.

She emphasized the importance of communication “so that people that want to get vaccines know what they should be doing and how they should be going about it.”

While uncertain whether the CDC’s guidance indicates an imminent vaccine, McCarney said, “We need to be ready for when it is available, that we have our plans in place, that we can make this happen and do it safely and effectively, and coordinate the resources to make it happen. But without a vaccine ready to go, we just don’t know.”

McCarney indicated that when approved, a vaccine would be limited in supply, and prioritized groups may include healthcare workers, people connected either as staff or residents to assisted living facilities and long-term care facilities, and people at increased risk for severe cases of COVID-19.

Copyright 2020 KTVF. All rights reserved.

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