King County needs help from feds to distribute COVID-19 vaccine

VIDEO: King County needs help from feds to distribute COVID-19 vaccine

KING COUNTY, Wash. — Pfizer asked the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine on Friday. The vaccine could be available in December, but King County Public Health’s top doctor said the county isn’t ready to pass it out.

While the race to get a vaccine approved is called “Operation Warp Speed,” Dr. Jeff Duchin called the plan to distribute it “Operation Status Quo.”

“Operation Warp Speed invested billions in developing the COVID-19 vaccines. And now, we need a similar federal investment to deploy these vaccines at the state and local level,” said Duchin.

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He continued: “What we have received so far is totally insufficient for the task ahead, which will involve planning for new vaccine distribution and administration venues, recruiting and training community-based health care providers to administer vaccine and providing them with support and technical assistance, enhancement and coordination of data systems, and robust public engagement and public information campaigns to build trust and vaccine acceptance with community, particularly in communities of color.”

Duchin said Public Health has a team of three people working on planning the distribution. He hopes, by Monday, they will have a better idea of how large a team it will take to work on the distribution.

The Washington State Department of Health acknowledges the need for more financial support from the federal government.

“The bottom line is we do need dollars, as well to actually help local health and other entities with getting the vaccine into people’s arms,” said Secretary of Health John Weisman.

He does think the state can be ready to distribute the first doses of the vaccine when it becomes available.

“We do have some resources for that, so we are confident that, in the beginning, we will be able to respond, but this is going to need to be a long haul,” said Weisman.

The Pfizer vaccine will require ultra-cold temperatures and special freezers. King County and the Department of Health both stated today they do not think that will be a problem.

In King County, Duchin wants to make sure they have enough resources to vaccinate everyone. “Individuals living homeless and residents in our county’s more than 1,000 Adult Family Homes are just a few examples of those who may be left behind unless we have adequate resources and staff to work with and support community partners to deliver these shots to these vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations,” he said.