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COVID-19 Vaccinations: What Do We Know So Far

Receiving a vaccination is one of the most effective ways for people to protect themselves and those around them including residents. Development of a COVID-19 vaccination has been on a fast-track since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020. Many teams working toward vaccines for the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus previously worked on vaccines for similar viruses such as the original SARS virus, influenza, and other coronavirus pathogens contributing to the speed at which vaccines for COVID-19 are developing. On November 18, 2020 Pfizer applied for the first COVID-19 vaccination emergency use authorization (EUA) and will shortly be followed by other manufacturers such as Moderna, Astra-Zeneca, and others. Currently, vaccines are projected to be available the end of December 2020 or the beginning of January 2021.

Vaccine Administration Phases

A phased approach is planned for COVID-19 vaccination consisting of a total of three phases.  Phase 1a will include healthcare workers because of the increased risk for infection and the potential for spreading the infection to others. Phase 1b will include the remainder of healthcare workers who were not vaccinated in phase 1a and high-risk populations which will likely include residents in long-term care communities such as nursing homes and assisted living organizations.  The vaccine will be administered in two doses 21-days or 28-days apart depending upon the manufacturer. Individuals receiving vaccine will require the same vaccine type for both injections; vaccine manufacturers cannot be mixed during the vaccination process. 

Providing Vaccines in Your Community

Vaccine providers must sign a federal COVID-19 vaccination enrollment with the Minnesota immunization program to be able to receive and administer vaccine and are required to enroll in the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection. If you are not already enrolled in MIIC visit their website for more information. Other considerations for becoming a vaccination provider can be found on the COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Registration page

Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care

According to the CDC, the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program provides end-to-end management of the COVID-19 vaccination process, including cold chain management, on-site vaccinations, and fulfillment of reporting requirements; to facilitate safe vaccination of this patient population, while reducing burden on long-term care facilities (LTCFs) and jurisdictional health departments. LTCF staff who have not received COVID-19 vaccine can also be vaccinated as part of the program. This program provides critical vaccination services and is free of charge to facilities. As part of this program the pharmacy will:

  • Schedule and coordinate on-site clinic date(s) directly with each facility. Three visits over approximately two months will likely be needed to administer both doses of vaccine and vaccinate any new residents and staff.
  • Order vaccines and associated supplies (e.g., syringes, needles, personal protective equipment).
  • Ensure cold chain management for vaccine.
  • Provide on-site administration of vaccine.
  • Report required vaccination data (approximately 20 data fields) to the local, state/territorial, and federal jurisdictions within 72 hours of administering each dose.
  • Adhere to all applicable Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) COVID-19 testing requirements for LTCF staff.

For questions about the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care you can contact eocevent494@cdc.gov.

What’s Next in the Vaccine Approval Process?

Following the EUA submission, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) will complete a review of the information submitted by Pfizer, ask questions, and request and review further documentation as they view necessary. In addition to the FDA review, one of the FDA’s committees, the Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC), is scheduled to meet on December 10, 2020 to review information on the vaccine. The VRBPAC is comprised of 15 voting members selected by the FDA in various fields such as immunology, molecular biology, bacteriology, epidemiology, etc. The committee reviews and evaluates data submitted about the safety, effectiveness, and appropriate use of vaccines and other related biological products proposed for use in people and offers an opinion. Final approval of the EUA rests with the FDA. The VRBPAC hearing is public and the agenda and other information is made available to the public 48 hours prior to the hearing. Once the FDA approves the EUA, the details, administration instructions, and other information will be published, and vaccine disbursement can start according to state and national plans.

What to do Now

To prepare for COVID-19 Vaccinations consider the following steps:

  • Contact your local public health department to discuss vaccination in your community.
  • Poll your staff to determine how many staff members will receive COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Visit the MDH and CDC vaccination webpages to familiarize yourself with the vaccine information and processes.
  • Start educating staff about the vaccine and your preliminary plans.
  • View the MDH COVID-19 training webinars in person or recording. These webinars have been scheduled for: 11/24, 12/1, 12/8, and 12/15  from 12:30pm – 1:00 pm. There will be fifteen minutes of content and fifteen minutes for questions.

Available Resources

LeadingAge Minnesota has developed this COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ  which will be updated as new information becomes available. Other resources include:

Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program COVID-19
MDH COVID-19 Vaccination Provider Registration
MDH COVID-19 Vaccine Information for Health Professionals
CDC Coronavirus Vaccines
CDC COVID-19 Vaccination program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations

For questions on vaccinations please contact Kari Everson, LeadingAge Minnesota Director of Clinical Care & Nurse Consultant, at keverson@leadingagemn.org or 651-380-2032.

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