The possibility of a COVID-19 vaccine being pushed through for emergency use by the FDA at the end of this month brings a series of new protocols, which includes who gets a vaccine first.
Director of Wellness Services Gerald Wilmes said healthcare workers will be given a vaccine first based on a tier system the Wellness Center was asked to create by the federal and state governments if they are allowed to distribute vaccines.
Wilmes explained that Northwest’s first tier will include healthcare workers at the Wellness Center, the University Police Department and athletic trainers.
“What almost everyone agrees is that there will be limited vaccines in the beginning and it will be several months — maybe even a year— before there’s very wide-spread availability,” Wilmes said.
City Manager Greg McDanel said in an email to the Northwest Missourian that the emergency approval of the vaccine is critical to maintain the safety of Maryville’s community and economy.
“Unfortunately, I would estimate we are still 3-6 months away from widespread distribution of a vaccine in rural communities, and we are preparing as such,” McDanel said.
The tier system was created because of the limited number of vaccines that will be available when they are initially distributed throughout the nation. This means the counties will have to choose who will receive COVIS-19 vaccinations first.
The CDC has created a “COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations”, which provides tips and phases for vaccine providers to follow in order to effectively distribute COVID-19 vaccines where they are needed most.
The playbook describes, “A key point to consider is that vaccine supply will be limited at the beginning of the program, so the allocation of doses must focus on vaccination providers,” supporting the tier system that has been created for Northwest.
Wilmes said from there, they will give any leftover vaccines to people who are at a higher risk of contracting the virus.
He made it clear that not every Northwest student and faculty member will receive a vaccine right away because of the scarcity in the beginning of the vaccine’s creation and distribution.
Wilmes said the Wellness Center has applied to receive vaccines that they can then distribute, but it is currently unknown if and when Wellness Services will be approved.
If the Wellness Center’s application is denied, they will not be able to distribute vaccines for the coronavirus at the University.
Wilmes said that even though the vaccine may be pushed through the FDA by reason of emergency use, given the circumstances of the pandemic, he feels that it is the best move that the country can make to help curb the ever-growing amount of cases.
“I feel confident that it will be appropriately vetted to ensure both safety and effectiveness,” Wilmes said.
Wilmes addressed another challenge that comes with the possibility of a COVID-19 vaccine — some have rigorous storage requirements.
“One of them has to be stored at minus 70 degrees,” Wilmes said.
Wilmes explained that some of these requirements rule the University’s Wellness Center out for distributing COVID-19 vaccines, but there are some vaccines that have less strict storage requirements that the Wellness Center would be able to hold and administer.
Wilmes said that if the Wellness Center is not approved to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, then other health officials in Nodaway County such as Mosaic Medical Center - Maryville may have the ability to provide vaccinations.
It is currently unknown by the Northwest Missourian if Mosaic has been or will be approved to store and distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
“Nobody really seems to know what kind of numbers will come along and what time frame,” Wilmes said in regards to the number of vaccines healthcare facilities may receive.
Wilmes said that even if the FDA approves a vaccine for emergency use, it will take time to make the vaccine available on a larger scale, even if that scale is just big enough to cover healthcare workers and law enforcement.
“Based on what I’ve seen, I don’t think anybody is going to receive any vaccine doses until right around the end of this calendar year,” Wilmes said.
He said he speculated that Nodaway County, not to mention Northwest, won’t receive any vaccines until late December or early January.
McDanel said Maryville has been working with the Nodaway County Health Department and Mosaic Medical Center - Maryville to decide what the city’s role would be in the process of administering vaccines.
“The City of Maryville is developing additional COVID-19 restrictions and protocols to protect public health in the absence of a vaccine,” McDanel said. “No measures are imminent, but are being developed if certain public health thresholds, medical capacities are met.”
Administrator of the Nodaway County Health Department and Mosaic Medical Center - Maryville were contacted but did not reply in time for publication.