Beaverhead County Public Health, Barrett Hospital and HealthCare, and the Community Health Center (CHC) received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine last week and have begun vaccinating people in Phase 1A. On December 18, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. Another vaccine, Pfizer/Biotech, was issued an EUA and other Montana locations received that vaccine earlier in this December.
Information about mRNA COVID19 vaccines can be found at CDC.gov. They state that mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. To trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies. Not mRNA vaccines. Instead, they teach our cells how to make a protein-or even just a piece of protein-that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies. The efficacy (protective ability) of the vaccine is very high after receiving the two doses. The Moderna vaccine is 94.1% and the Pfizer-BioNTech is 95%. There is limited data available regarding the efficacy of a single dose so completing both doses is very important for optimize protection. mRNA vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19 and so cannot give someone COVID-19. They also do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are rigorously evaluated for safety just like other vaccines. Researchers have been studying and working with mRNA vaccines for decades and it is not a new technology. These types of vaccines can be developed in a laboratory using readily available materials which means the process can be standardized and scaled up, making vaccine development faster than traditional methods of making vaccines.
The process to administer the COVID19 vaccine is more complicated then with other vaccines and requires preplanning and contacting agencies and personnel that fall into Phase 1A. The vaccine is frozen and requires thawing. Once the vaccine is thawed and the 10-dose vial is punctured, the vaccine must be administered within 6 hours. The vaccine will not be wasted so the vaccine staff must work to find 10 people to receive the vaccine within that 6-hour time frame. Because of this issue, public health is contacting agencies to get numbers of people who are committed to receiving the vaccine. This helps us to determine the amount of vaccine we need to order. At this time, the state health department is indicating we can order vaccine weekly based on our needs. If you or your agency fits into Phase 1A and you haven’t been called by January 11th, please call public health at 683-4771. We anticipate doing small clinics with scheduled appointments for Phase 1A. The COVID-19 vaccines require a second dose and this is accounted for so all persons receiving the first shot will receive the second shot.
Because the supply of COVID-19 is expected to be limited at first, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has released recommendations for the allocation of COVID-19 vaccines for different populations. These recommendations were made with the goals of decreasing death and serious disease as much as possible; preserve the functioning of society; and reduce the extra burden the pandemic is having on people already facing disparities. Although we don’t know exactly when we will move from one phase to another, Beaverhead County Public Health hopes to begin Phase 1B sometime in January. The vaccination's are free of charge.
Healthcare Personnel such as (not inclusive):
Hospital and Clinics
Personal Care Assistants
Optometrists and Dentists
Mental Health Providers
Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence Counselors
Long-term Care and Assisted Living Facilities
Pioneer Care has received their vaccine from another contracted entity and The Legacy, and the Renaissance facilities will be provided vaccine by contracted pharmacies (Walgreen).
Education and Childcare
Persons aged 75 years and older
Individuals in Congregate care and correctional facilities
Persons aged 65 years and older
Persons 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions (Moderna vaccine is only for people 18 years and older)
Everyone else, aged 16 and older