In a hopeful sign, the first COVID-19 vaccines may be available in limited quantities before the end of 2020. But the public is encouraged to still follow safety measures including wearing a mask, keeping physical distance, washing hands, and staying home when sick.
The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has launched a website, healthoregon.org/covidvaccine, to provide the public with information on COVID vaccines, including their safety and efficacy and the planning involved in vaccine distribution in Oregon.
According to the OHA, currently two vaccines are nearing approval. The vaccine producers, pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna, report that the vaccines were found to be 90% and 95% effective, respectively, in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in Phase 3 study participants.
Moderna had over 30,000 volunteers in its Phase 3 study and Pfizer had over 40,000. Those numbers are larger than many Phase 3 studies.
The vaccines are waiting for approval under an Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after a rigorous testing and trial process.
Oregon has made the safety of COVID-19 vaccines a top priority and has joined a consortium of western states (Washington, California, Nevada and Colorado) that is reviewing all vaccines for safety before they are made available to the public. Federal partners are also working to ensure the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
If approved, a limited supply will be available in December. People will need two doses, spaced a few weeks apart. Because the initial supply of first doses will be limited, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends prioritizing two groups: health care workers treating COVID-19 patients and
residents of long-term care facilities. OHA has not yet determined prioritization and will convene a Vaccine Advisory Committee to gain input from community members about how to ensure an equitable approach to distribution.
OHA is working with vaccination providers, including doctors’ offices, retail pharmacies, hospitals and federally qualified health centers, to ensure that people in Oregon can easily get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as large quantities are available. The hope is that there will be enough vaccine to start widespread immunization in spring 2021.