Washington has joined Oregon, California and Nevada in giving the green light for the first COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Dec. 13.
The decision to approve the vaccine from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer was made Dec. 13 following a unanimous vote by the 17-member Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup comprised of scientists from all four states.
Pfizer reported in November its vaccine is about 94.5% effective according to the final results of its human trials which included some 44,000 people.
It must be taken via two doses three weeks apart. Side effects can include joint pain, headaches, tiredness, fever and swelling around the injection site.
“After looking at all of the available data, our workgroup unanimously agreed that at this time the benefits of this vaccine greatly exceed any theoretical risks,” workgroup member Dr. John Dunn said. “I personally am reassured by the safety profile and look forward to being vaccinated as soon as I am eligible.”
The vaccine was approved by FDA on Dec. 11 by a margin of 17-4 for people ages 16 and up. FDA leaders who voted against it voiced concerns about its unknown side effects on those younger than the recommended age.
Washington expects to receive 62,000 doses of Pfizer's vaccine by this week with another 160,000 due by the end of December. The first batch was expected to arrive by Dec. 14 while vaccinations were poised to start on Dec. 15.
Oregon expects to receive 147,950 doses this month while California is hoping to receive 327,000 doses.
Up to 189 organizations statewide will act as vaccine providers, the Washington Department of Health reports, including...
...hospitals and family medicine clinics.
The vaccine must be stored at sub-zero temperatures and must be used quickly, according to Deanna Stark, a public health educator with the Spokane Regional Health District.
Stark said the vaccine can be stored in the thermal shipper it comes in so long as it is used up within 20 days. The Spokane area already boasts four "ultra-cold storage" sites, according to Stark.
Each thermal shipper contains enough doses for as many as 975 people, said DOH spokesperson Franji Mayes, and the DOH is working to allow hospitals to send unneeded doses to other enrolled facilities.
According to the state's vaccine distribution plan, all available doses will first be distributed to frontline health care workers, first responders and long-term care facilities under "phase 1a."
Later phases will prioritize vaccinations for essential workers and disadvantaged communities.
Washington expects another 183,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna around that time frame should it be approved by the FDA.
Moderna has reported their vaccine is about 95% effective against the virus with a range of similar side effects to Pfizer's vaccine.
News of the vaccine's approval comes nearly a year after...
..Washington identified its very first COVID-19 patient on Jan. 20.
Since then, the state of 7.6 million people has seen a daily average of 3,177 new reported cases in the past week---up from a weekly average of 2,676 cases the previous week. Statewide hospital capacity hovered around 80% on Dec. 11.
The state's caseload to date now stands 202,063 while its death toll stands at 2,879 people, less than two weeks before Christmas.
“This doesn't mean we are out of the woods yet,” Inslee said. “We can’t let up on masking, physical distancing and restrictions on indoor activities. We need to continue to slow the rate of infection as we work to get Washingtonians vaccinated. We must keep up the fight a little longer and I know we will get through this, together.”
While medical experts are divided on just how many Americans will have to be vaccinated to stop the pandemic's chain of transmission, White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that number is around 75% to 80%.
Washington's partial statewide shutdown limiting social gatherings and indoor business capacity ends on Jan. 4 following an extension by the governor.