Washington gears up for distribution of coronavirus vaccine

As Washington state faces its most dangerous coronavirus surge, there is a glimmer of hope in the race for a coronavirus vaccine.

Drugmaker Pfizer said its vaccine is 95% effective and plans to apply for an emergency approval from the FDA on Friday. If all goes as planned, Pfizer’s vaccine could be rolled out in December.

That has state health officials gearing up for the distribution of a vaccine. But when or how much is distributed is still up in the air.

“We believe the federal government is going to be making decisions based on population allocations which means we’re about 2% of the entire population of the U.S. So whatever that final number is we expect to be getting - at this point 2%,” said Michele Roberts of the Washington State Department of Health.

The state said it has received 400 applications from health care providers to administer the vaccine so far.

Swedish Medical Center said it has a team preparing for the vaccine’s rollout. That team is working on all the logistics behind getting a vaccine to the public, like how it will be stored and how it will be administered.

The City of Seattle is already working on converting COVID-19 testing sites to vaccination sites.

“We’re all just kind of anxiously awaiting the actual arrival of those vaccines so we can start training on them and using them,” said Seattle Fire Captain Brian Wallace.

Promising news from drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna this week showcase the record speed in making and getting the vaccine to the public.

“Because of this work, by the end of December, we expect to have about 40 million doses of these two vaccines available for distribution pending FDA authorization,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

As for who will get the vaccine first once it’s available, the state says it’s still working on its prioritization guidance.

“The highest risk priority will likely be those health care workers taking care of COVID patients. When I say health care, I don’t just mean doctors and nurses. We mean everybody needed in hospital,” said Kathy Lofy with Washington State Department of Health.