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Southern California Officials Drafting Rollout Plans In Anticipation Of Potential COVID-19 Vaccine

In this July 16, 2020, file photo, two physician assistants work at a COVID-1...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: In this July 16, 2020, file photo, two physician assistants work at a COVID-19 drive-thru testing site set up at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif.

A fifth U.S.-backed COVID-19 vaccine candidate entered the final stage of testing this week but it’s unclear when or which one would be approved.

Still, health officials, including in San Diego County are drafting vaccine distribution plans.

Listen to this story by Tarryn Mento.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month directed state health departments to craft rollout strategies by as early as late October, according to documents first reported by The New York Times.

However, agencies don't know which vaccine candidate regulators would ultimately approve and each may have different storage needs or other unique requirements.

Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, said this means health officials have to plan for all scenarios.

"If some of these vaccines — and one of them does — requires a deep freeze, where would we locate that deep freeze? Who are the people who will then be trained in how to actually handle these vaccines so they don't get degraded in their use before they're inoculated into a person," said Schaffner, also a professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

He said state departments are likely also examining which vaccines could be best distributed to the various health care facilities in their region, especially because early doses will be limited to certain groups.

"Does, for example, the doctor in their own office know what the prioritization scheme is and can then report back to the health department and be accountable for the appropriate use of that vaccine?" Schaffner said. "All of those details, and I'm sure 20 dozen more is what health departments are functioning on."

The California Department of Public Health said its planning includes local health departments, community stakeholders and multiple state agencies.

"CDPH is closely monitoring all available information about the candidate COVID-19 vaccines, including their Phase 3 trials, the FDA review process and any independent evaluations," the agency said in a statement. "CDPH will need evidence that the vaccine candidates are safe and effective before distributing them."

A San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency spokeswoman said local officials are working on a plan, but they won't share details until it is further along. Supervisors in Los Angeles County directed health officials there to create a plan and report back within 45 days, City News Service reported.

Scripps Health also formed a committee to evaluate vaccines.

The CDC's COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations, released Sept. 16, offers potential scenarios that could occur as early as late October. It includes details, including storage needs, for each vaccine that could be approved for emergency use by federal regulators.

However, top health officials have said a vaccine would likely not be widely available to the public until the spring, and the limited early doses of an approved vaccine would likely go toward health care workers.

A federal advisory group recently held off on officially making any recommendations about who should be first in line.

San Diego is the site of late-stage trials for at least two vaccines. UC San Diego is currently enrolling volunteers for the Moderna vaccine and is setting up a second trial for the candidate from the University of Oxford and United Kingdom-based company AstraZeneca, but that was paused after a volunteer in the U.K. experienced a illness. Testing has since resumed overseas but not in the U.S.

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Photo of Tarryn Mento

Tarryn Mento
Health Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksThe health beat is about more than just illness, medicine and hospitals. I examine what impacts the wellness of humans and their communities.

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