Kansas has worked out a preliminary plan for distributing COVID-19 vaccines once they become available, according to a state health official.
The draft plan now is available on the state’s health department website, said Phil Griffin, director of disease control and prevention for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. He discussed vaccines and the preliminary plan during a news conference Tuesday morning with the University of Kansas Health System.
The plan is currently under review with the Centers for Disease Control, and the plan will change as information becomes available, according to officials.
Griffin said they are working now to enroll providers for the vaccine, and will open a web portal next week.
Health officials are not sure exactly when COVID-19 vaccines will become available, but it was announced on Monday that one vaccine maker, Pfizer, would file for FDA authorization in mid-November. There had been speculation that the company would try to file this week or next week.
Griffin said several vaccines are in development right now. When one is approved, there will probably be a very limited amount of vaccine available immediately, he said. There are indications that production would be ramped up once the vaccines are approved.
Griffin said the draft plan calls for three phases of vaccinations in Kansas. This aspect of the plan is based on federal guidelines.
Medical professionals who are unable to work from home, who are in a hospital setting and are in contact with potential COVID-19 patients would be first to receive the vaccine in Phase 1A, Griffin said.
Phase 1B would include additional first responders, and would begin to serve high-risk populations, nursing home and long-term care staff and residents, he said.
This first phase would depend on the availability of vaccine and there would be an allocation process nationally, he said.
Phase 2’s first priority would be essential workers and those who are at risk, Griffin said.
Then, they hope to quickly go into Phase 3, full market availability for the general population, he said. They hope Phase 3 happens from the spring to the middle of next year, he added.
Providers will be enrolled, with the state first enrolling hospitals, then health departments, and after that working with partners and enrolling all types of providers, according to Griffin. On Friday, there was an announcement that the federal Health and Human Services Department has secured agreements with Walgreens and CVS as providers to long-term care facilities, he added.
If there are already relationships between long-term care facilities and other pharmacies or hospitals, they will enroll those as well, he said. They plan to use as wide a range of vaccinators as possible, he added.
By the time they get to Phase 3, they will be using a lot of private and local sources, including primary care physicians, he said.
If people are required to get two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, they must make sure to get the same vaccine for the second dose, according to doctors.
When people get their first COVID-19 vaccine, they will receive a card noting their first dose, it will tell them when to come back for the second dose, and the card will list the vaccine they already received, according to Griffin. There is a registry for the vaccines, and providers must submit the name of the vaccine recipient with the vaccine received within a day, to be on file in the registry. The health officials hope to make sure that people get the correct second dose when they come in for their second vaccination.
Both Missouri and Kansas will be using the same platform for the registry, he said.
The state health department plans to use the same delivery system for the COVID-19 vaccine that it does for the flu vaccine, Griffin said.
There could be some challenges with some of the vaccines. For example, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine needs to be kept very cold, about 70 degrees below zero, in shipping.
They are developing special shipping boxes for the vaccine that will keep it cold, he said. They also are developing procedures to make sure that it is not wasted.
Griffin said he plans to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available to him. He will base his decision on which type of vaccine to take based on what the medical studies say, he added.
Because it is possible for people to get reinfected with COVID-19, there are still some questions about how long the vaccine will last, according to the doctors.
Currently they think immunity can last from a few to six months, possibly, for a person who gets COVID-19. That’s one of the reasons not to try to get COVID-19 on purpose, since getting it once won’t prevent people from getting it again, according to the doctors.
Vaccines are only one defense against the coronavirus, Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at KU Health System, said. Other defenses that work include wearing a mask, washing hands, keeping distance and not going out when sick, he said.
On Tuesday morning, Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical direction of infection prevention and control at the KU Health System, said there were 27 active COVID-19 inpatients at KU Health System, down five since Monday, with 11 in the intensive care unit and seven on ventilators. There were another 30 COVID-19 patients in the recovery phase, he said. Also, HaysMed in Hays, Kansas, reported 16 total COVID, 19 patients, with 15 active infections and one in the recovery phase, also a decrease.
The KU doctors’ news conference is at https://www.facebook.com/kuhospital/videos/2649422155323608/.
The state’s draft plan for vaccines is at https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1533/DRAFT-COVID-19-Vaccination-Plan-for-Kansas-Version11-10162020.