Coronavirus Vaccines Are on the Way but Are States Ready for Them?

With Pfizer’s and Moderna’s coronavirus vaccines on their way to FDA approval, Americans should anticipate widespread deployment of at least one company’s concoction over the next few months. A limited number of COVID-19 vaccine doses may start to become available as early as this month, with more doses available over time. There is, however, one major question: Are states ready?

Pfizer expects to ship half of the COVID-19 vaccines it originally planned for this year because of supply-chain problems, but still expects to roll out more than 1 billion doses in 2021. That’s 1 billion doses of a vaccine that must be stored at about -70° C (-94° F), a temperature cold enough to harden ice cream into a spoon-breaking block of ice. Large medical centers and urban centers are the most likely to have the resources necessary for ultra-cold storage, but those living in rural areas, nursing homes and developing nations may have to wait. Cold-storage requirements are just one of many concerns that state governments have as the vaccine deployment begins.

Just over half of state plans report having database systems in place that are described as being (at least fairly) comprehensive and reliable; in the other state plans, that information is unclear. Most states report still having to develop or add functionality to their existing immunization registries to be prepared for COVID-19 vaccine administration. Several states raise concerns about the ability to report certain CDC-recommended data elements to federal systems or meet CDC time requirements for reporting. States also mention limitations in collecting race and ethnicity data on individuals vaccinated.

Another roadblock states will need to reckon with is general skepticism among the population. More than one-third of Massachusetts adults would be unlikely to get the vaccine for COVID-19, according to new poll results, with adults who feel that way citing a lack of trust in the approval process and concerns about side-effects. Pollsters found similar results in both North Carolina, with 34 percent saying they would not take the vaccine and 27 percent unsure. Just over 18 states’ plans include at least one mention of addressing vaccine misinformation, but most of these states do not provide specific strategies for countering misinformation.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced earlier this week that New York expects to receive the first 170,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine on December 15. The Empire State’s immunization plan prioritizes nursing home residents and essential workers. Cuomo voiced his personal concern about residents’ hesitance to get the vaccine. “Very few people refuse a COVID test. It’s not a frightening test. It’s a nasal swab. Now you’re asking a person to take two vaccines, which is a more elaborate medical process, and they’re distrusting about the vaccine going in,” Cuomo said, adding, “This would be the largest governmental operation undertaken since World War II, in my opinion.”

Discussions surrounding another stimulus package have resumed on Capitol Hill, and the latest news is that a new potential $908 billion package would include support for small-business loans, state and local government, education, unemployment insurance, healthcare and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. Talks of sending more aid to state governments, however, have been going on for several months and state governments are not holding their breath.

Source: National Association of Health Underwriters – NAHU