With the promise of a covid vaccine around the corner, officials at state and local health departments are beginning to worry about the possibility of thousands of doses going to waste, due to cracks in the infrastructure of our healthcare system.
According to Politico, the vaccine developed by Pfizer requires extreme temperature control for storage, as the doses must be kept in “ultra-cold” conditions. Once they’re thawed and diluted for use, they must be administered within six hours. That means health departments, pharmacies, and other healthcare facilities must have enough patients ready to receive the vaccine in order for it not to spoil. And though there’s been significant public interest in the development of a covid vaccine, the number of Americans who plan on actually getting it when it becomes available has significantly dropped since the spring.
“This is going to be very hard, I think there’s going to be a steep learning curve here,” Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.“I think there is going to be a lot of waste, and I think we are going to figure this out over time. There is going to be a lot of stumbling. ... You’ve got six hours once reconstituted, that’s unprecedented.”
Other health officials worry that the federal government hasn’t invested in the kinds of programs and initiatives required to administer a vaccine to millions of Americans, citing unlearned lessons from the way the United States dealt with the H1N1 influenza virus more than a decade ago. Instead, the Trump administration has left public health officials without a unified plan or a unified message for the vaccine, which could be ready for mass distribution as soon as December.
“We need a plan,” said Jason Terk, chair of the Texas Public Health Coalition, who told the Washington Post about syringe shortages for administering vaccines during H1N1. “We’ve needed a plan for quite a long time.”
Hm, I can’t help but think it would have been good to be prepared for this one!