States Finalizing Plans To Distribute COVID-19 Vaccine

Oct 21, 2020

The timeline for an available COVID-19 vaccine is still unknown, but trials are underway. One trial site, run by AstraZeneca, will be hosted at the IU School of Medicine.
Credit PHOTO COURTESY OF ASTRAZENECA

State health leaders are beginning to release their plans for distributing a COVID-19 vaccine — whenever one becomes available. 

All states were required to submit draft distribution plans to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Oct. 16. A number of Midwest states — including Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio — have begun to make these drafts public.  

The Indiana State Department of Health released its interim draft on Tuesday and — similar to other states — will follow a phased approach. The department says the first recipients of a COVID-19 vaccine will be healthcare workers. 

This is a wide-ranging group that includes employees at hospitals, long-term care facilitates such as assisted living or skilled nursing facilities, outpatient facilities and pharmacies. Also on the list: dialysis centers, emergency medical services, frontline public health interventions and COVID-19 diagnostic and immunization teams. 

A chart outlines Indiana's three-phase approach to vaccine distribution.

Next in line for a vaccine are vulnerable groups such as people 65 years or older, and those with underlying health conditions. These conditions include diabetes, obesity and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, known as COPD.

The next phase of Indiana’s plan will focus on mitigating the virus’ spread by vaccinating people who can't work from home. This includes teachers, food service workers, firefighters and police officers. These groups are further broken down by risk level in case there is a limited number of vaccine doses. 

Finally, the vaccine will be distributed to everyone else in Indiana. However, the timeline for this plan remains unclear.

Kentucky estimates a vaccine rollout could start in early 2021 and it could take more than a year to reach everyone. Ohio and Missouri distribution plans mirror Indiana's closely in a three-pronged approach. Many states are following guidelines provided by the National Academies of Science. 

Common threads among these plans are logistics for widespread vaccinations, keeping these drugs shelf-stable and creating communications campaigns for the public. 

No vaccine has been approved by the FDA. However, some of the drugs in development could require storage  at temperatures as cold as -112 degrees fahrenheit. This creates problems for tracking and maintaining the vaccines. 

Indiana’s plan also acknowledges polling that indicates the public’s hesitancy to take a COVID-19 vaccine. This comes amid reports that the scientific process for determining a vaccine's safety is being politicized.

This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a news collaborative covering public health.