State prepares for challenges associated with COVID-19 vaccine – Concord Monitor

State prepares for challenges associated with COVID-19 vaccine<br />

  • University of Miami Miller School of Medicine phlebotomist Mayra Fernandez takes a blood sample from study participant Julio Li, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, in Miami. Miami is one of 89 cities around the U.S. that’s testing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. (AP Photo/Taimy Alvarez) Taimy Alvarez

Monitor staff

Published: 10/7/2020 3:59:32 PM

State health officials are gearing up for challenges in distributing a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

Beth Daly, the chief of New Hampshire’s Bureau of Infectious Disease Control, said the state has been developing strategies for months to effectively dole out COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they are ready.

Granite Staters have traditionally had a high rate of vaccination compared to the rest of the country. During the last influenza season, about 58% of people in New Hampshire got their flu shot, compared to a 45% average in the United States.

However, according to a recent poll from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, less than half of Granite Staters would currently be willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Daly said they are working on a set of guidelines to distribute the vaccine equitably.

“We’re not expecting there is going to be enough vaccine for everyone initially,” she said during a roundtable with U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan on Wednesday.

The department said they will look at national guidelines on distribution and adapt them to the state’s specific needs. So far, Daly said, they have not made many determinations about who will be prioritized when a COVID-19 vaccine is available.

Daly said the department also anticipates challenges tracking which vaccines each person has received. If there are multiple vaccines available to the public, it will be imperative to make sure each individual is finishing their respective series of medications.

Right now, New Hampshire is the only state without an immunization registry. Daly said the department is working to roll out a registry before COVID-19 vaccines become available.

In some ways, the flu shot has served as a test run for distributing vaccines while maintaining social distancing.

Antonia Altomare, an epidemiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, said rather than holding large flu shot clinics, as they usually do in the fall, Dartmouth has instead shifted to drive-by vaccinations to ensure people can remain socially distant. She said this is likely the method of administration Dartmouth will use when the COVID-19 vaccine is available.

However, the COVID-19 vaccine presents unique challenges to health care providers.

Daly said all of the potential vaccines on the market require some level of refrigeration, which adds an added level of difficulty for distribution. One vaccine requires a deep freezer that reaches -94 degrees, which many providers do not already have in their offices. Furthermore, each vaccine might have differing shelf lives to keep track of.

“We really just don’t know,” she said. “They’re all really different from one another so far is what we’re hearing.”

The state has also put in extra effort this year to ensure Granite Staters get their flu shots. Altomare said it is especially imperative to get a flu shot, as health care resources are already strained from COVID-19.

While in the summer, someone with respiratory illness could be easily identified and tested as a COVID-19 patient, once the flu season begins, diagnosis becomes more complicated. More cases of the flu mean that more resources and effort will have to be expended to test them for COVID-19.

Dolling out any vaccine is challenging, Daly said. The COVID-19 vaccine presents a specific set of hurdles.

“It will absolutely be a challenge,” she said. “But we do have plans in place.”

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Author: The Covid-19 Channel