Maine’s system for distributing a COVID-19 vaccine will prioritize racial equality and the protection of health care workers and the elderly, according to a plan the state submitted to the federal government on Friday.
If there is adequate supply, Maine says it will have the capacity to vaccinate 80 percent of the state’s 1.3 million people within 12 weeks of having the vaccine.
When completely destroyed, Maine will provide 130,000 shots weekly, according to a plan released by the Department of Health and Human Services on Friday. Giving most Mainers their shot at COVID-19 will be a huge undertaking that will involve thousands of health care workers, state agencies, all Maine hospitals and health care networks , pharmacies, health nurses, schools and workplaces.
“Here in Maine, we are planning for a COVID-19 vaccine to arrive, whenever it happens,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, at his conference on Thursday. “Right now, we don’t know when that might be. But the day a vaccine is approved will not be the day COVID-19 ends. It will not magically remove COVID-19 overnight. Vaccines last.”
No vaccines have been approved yet, but many are in the final stages of testing, including Massachusetts-based vaccine candidates based in Moderna, Inc. at New York’s Pfizer, Inc. A vaccine can be approved by the Food and Drug Administration in advance. in late November, but it will take at least several more months before the vaccine becomes widely available.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires each state to file Friday a distribution plan outlining how to get the vaccine from a manufacturer to doctors’ offices and patients’ arms.
“Maine is committed to working with the healthcare sector and stakeholders across the state as we plan on receiving and distributing a vaccine when it becomes available,” Governor Janet Mills said in a statement. “While something needs to be done, submitting this document represents a positive step forward. My administration will continue to work with others as we develop our state’s COVID response and plan for a vaccine.”
According to the 77-page plan, the equity strategy focuses – because Maine’s minority communities and those with certain health conditions are no longer proportionately affected by COVID-19 – accessibility and flexibility. State health officials say the plan needs to be flexible so that it can be adapted to work with the vaccine that first completes the line. For example, some vaccine candidates require cold storage and two doses.
“Distribution will present a challenge because at this time we do not know which of the development vaccines that ultimately receive approval will have heat stability,” Shah said. “Will they need a minus 70 degree freezer, or a normal freezer?”
Shah said that was just one of the distribution challenges, but nevertheless, they are making scenarios based on vaccines that are currently in the final stages of trials.
Maine minorities make up nearly 5 percent of the state’s 1.3 million people, but 25 percent of COVID-19 cases. The pandemic killed more than 5,800 people in Maine and claimed 145 lives.
“Races and ethnic minorities have experienced disease rates that exceed their representation in the population as a whole. Other groups, such as the elderly and people with severe chronic medical conditions, are also disproportionate. The plan includes strategies to ensure that these groups are successfully vaccinated, “the Maine Department of Health and Human Services said in a news release.
The plan prioritizes which groups will receive the vaccine first, although at this point it is not known how long each of the four stages will take.
• Phase 1 will include health care workers in high-risk settings, those in gathering settings and some important workers.
• Phase 2 will share the vaccine with people with underlying health conditions, school staff, correctional facilities, and seniors, even if the plan does not specify an age range.
• Phase 3 includes further expansion of many populations, such as young adults, children and people working in industries at greater risk or important jobs that have not been offered vaccines.
• Phase 4 means the vaccine is available to all Maine residents.
“We will need an approved vaccine and federal support, along with answers to many remaining questions, but our partners are ready to incorporate a vaccine into Maine’s effective strategy against COVID-19,” said Jeanne Lambrew , commissioner of health and human services for Maine. in a statement.
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