Delaware Valley health officials prepare for COVID-19 vaccine distribution

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- In just days, the FDA is expected to endorse Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.

In Philadelphia, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said Tuesday that the city could receive doses as early as next week, but they don't have exact numbers

"We've gotten many numbers from the federal government but each one, they say it may change and those numbers frequently have changed, so we won't know how many doses we'll get until we actually get them," said Farley.

Dr. Farley said the initial vaccines will only be in the tens of thousands.

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A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Health Department said they don't know how many vaccines the state will initially receive, but there's a three-stage approach to distribution.

Phase one includes first responders, essential workers and people 65 and older.

The second phase is the high-risk population, and the third phase includes the general population.

"If it is the Pfizer vaccine, it will be coming in doses of 975, so if we have our employees segregated into groups of 975, groups to receive the vaccine if they want it," said Dr. Jon Stallkamp, Main Line Health's Interim Chief Medical Officer.

Dr. Stallkamp said the hospital's emergency department staff is prioritized first on the list to get vaccinated.

"Those would be the ones who kind of have the unexpected introduction to a patient with COVID," said Dr. Stallkamp. "Someone who's with the emergency department (ED) and you never know if someone in the ED has COVID or not."

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Pennsylvania will launch a platform known as Prep Mod, a way to remind people to get the second dose of the vaccine via vaccination reminder cards.

As for storage and handling requirements for the vaccine, a spokesperson with the Pennsylvania Department of Health said it depends on which vaccine is approved first and when it will arrive.

In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy said they expect to receive half a million vaccines by the end of the year.

"The first distribution will include a total of 76,000 doses and there will be shipments. I think we can assume, every week thereafter for the foreseeable future," said Murphy, during a press conference on Friday.

Each Pennsylvania county is finalizing its vaccine distribution plans.

Representatives from Montgomery and Chester County sent these statements:

Montgomery County

We are actively planning for vaccine distribution in Montgomery County. This includes plans to receive and store the vaccine and standup the facilities needed to immunize frontline workers. Montgomery County will follow the immunization criteria issued by the Commonwealth in terms of priority, meaning people in nursing homes and frontline healthcare workers will be first to receive the vaccine.

We are working with local hospitals on ultra-cold vaccine storage along with having ordered our own freezers. It is our understanding that the vaccine will go directly to hospitals for the first round. We also understand that CVS and Walgreens will administer vaccine at Long Term Care Facilities but you would need to confirm that with the Commonwealth.

At this time we cannot confirm timing for distribution or the percentage of total vaccines that Montgomery County will receive.


Chester County

The Chester County Health Department (CCHD) is currently focusing on distribution planning of the COVID-19 vaccine, in partnership with the County's Department of Emergency Services, to refine logistical plans already in place for an event such as this. CCHD is taking the lead from the PA Department of Health, and the Commonwealth's proposed vaccine distribution plans to go directly to health systems, to long term care facilities and through CVS pharmacies. Wherever support for distribution of the vaccine is needed, at whatever level, Chester County is prepared to help, notably where there may be more local needs including, for example, vaccination of first responders or through federally qualified health systems.

Chester County also has the capacity to store vaccines that require ultra-low freezing, in a unit that was recently donated by Longwood Gardens.

In Bucks County, Health Department Director Dr. David Damsker said the first shipments will go to hospitals and pharmacies will likely be contracted to handle long-term care facilities.
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