Michiana making plans for COVID-19 vaccine rollout

NOW: Michiana making plans for COVID-19 vaccine rollout

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Michiana health officials said the FDA's recent emergency use approval of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine means they are putting together a plan to get that vaccine out to the public in a safe and efficient way. The rollout will come in phases. They said the plan is to get things started on December 17th. That's when officials said they hope the vaccine will arrive in Michiana.

"Well, it certainly is cause for great optimism, and it's our best hope that we've had up to this point," said St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox. "Having said that, I think it's going to be months before we have enough doses and enough people immunized in St. Joseph County to begin contemplating anything resembling a return to something approaching normal life."

The St. Joseph Health System will be facilitating the initial rollout of the vaccine. Officials there said they will be following the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) recommended plan that works in three phases. The first focuses on the most at-risk frontline healthcare workers. Phase two is when the general public begins to get vaccinated, starting with the most at-risk populations. Phase Three is when the rest of the general population will get immunized. Beacon Health System said it will help distribute the vaccine as well operating along similar lines when it does.

"We will be prioritizing the health care workers who are at the highest risk to get the vaccine first," said South Bend Memorial Vice President of Medical Affairs Dale Patterson. "We expect that by mid-January, we will be able to vaccinate most of the health care workers in our area. "After that, we anticipate that we will be able to offer the vaccine to the general public."

Dr. Mark Fox said he anticipates the vaccine will be ready to go out to the general public by this coming summer. St. Joseph Medical System Chief Clinical Officer Genevieve Lankowicz released a statement on facilitating the initial rollout of the vaccine.

"The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) has identified Saint Joseph Health System as the local healthcare provider to participate in state-directed COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Further details are anticipated from the state as the vaccines are approved for administration by the FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). The ISDH will work with all designated hospitals to coordinate the vaccine's administration to high-risk groups, as identified by the CDC, to receive the vaccine earlier than other groups. SJHS anticipates receiving doses of the vaccine on December 17, with distribution beginning on December 18. The initial doses of vaccine are an essential step in limiting the spread of COVID-19 to our community's most vulnerable. We know it will take several months before a significant proportion of our population can be vaccinated. Until then, we must all remain vigilant, wear a mask, and practice proper distancing."

Dr. Fox said after Phase one, he expects other organizations to help with vaccinations.

"Ultimately, we expect that local pharmacies and doctor's offices will administer the vaccine when we get to the phase for the general public," Fox said. "The health department will also be hosting some mass vaccination sites around the community."

Amid growing concern this mRNA vaccine will alter someone's DNA, Dr. Fox said that is not a possibility.

"So, unfortunately, there is some misinformation out. These mRNA vaccines will not interfere with your DNA," Fox said. "They won't change anything about your underlying DNA structure."

Fox said officials are hesitant to lay out a formal timeline for the vaccination process because the demand for doses in the first phase may be too more than what they get. Those doses are expected to arrive on December 17th with distribution set to begin on the 18th.

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