For a country in the midst of a brutal surge of COVID-19 cases, a vaccine cannot come soon enough.
“Help is in fact on the way,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious, recently. “Vaccines are literally on the threshold for us.”
The promise of a potentially life-saving drug is matched by the immense challenge of effectively distributing it.
“Obviously huge, monumental, like nothing we’ve seen before,” said Gina Moore, who teaches at the University of Colorado’s Skaggs School of Pharmacy.
Moore said the scale, speed and complexity of this vaccine rollout is unlike any seen before. From the ultra-cold storage the Pfizer vaccine requires and the training of health care workers who’ll administer the shots to the maintenance of patient registries.
“This is all a magnitude we’ve never seen before, and there’s gonna be things that happen, but I think the plan and the procedures that are in place are well thought out,” Moore said.
Colorado, which has 1.69 percent of the U.S. population, will get that same percentage of the vaccine supply. The first installment of 47,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine is expected to arrive in the state next week.
Each state recently submitted a vaccine distribution plan to the federal government. Colorado has conducted several exercises to gauge its readiness to receive and distribute the vaccine.
“To find out if we have any friction points, any areas that we need to improve on,” said Brig. Gen. Scott Sherman, the director of Colorado’s Vaccine Distribution Task Force.
One drill held recently saw a mock vaccine shipment arrive on time but a supply kit end up in the state of Kentucky. Meanwhile, local hospitals have elaborate plans in place.
“As soon as we have the vaccine and the information that we need, we’re ready to hit the ground running and go,” said Dr. Melissa Miller, the North Suburban Medical Center Pharmacy director.
Miller said health care providers who work with COVID-19 patients at the hospital will get shots first.
“They’re the ones working in our emergency rooms, ICU critical care units, also our COVID units as well as our code response team, our trauma teams,” she said.
Moore, whose school has trained students to administer the vaccine believing they’ll be needed, said people who are not in the top priority group for vaccines will need to be patient.
“One of my bigger worries is individuals that might not be in that Tier 1A being angry that they can’t get it,” she said.
One couple that volunteered for a Moderna vaccine trial said lots of work lies ahead.
“The job isn’t done right?” said Charles Wynn. “I mean there’s still a lot to do in terms of just executing on getting everyone vaccinated, getting people to believe.”
Believe the drug is worth rolling up their sleeves.
“Absolutely, would I take it?” Moore said. “Would I have my family take it? Absolutely.”
The first planes carrying the vaccine have arrived in the U.S. The controlled chaos, as Moore calls the process, is about to begin.