Porter seeks 600-plus vaccines for front-line workers

MIDDLEBURY — Porter Medical Center has asked for an initial 600-plus doses of COVID-19 vaccine to administer as soon as possible to its front-line health care workers, hospital officials confirmed on Friday.
But while Vermont Department of Health (DOH) officials have repeatedly pointed to vaccine availability this month, Porter officials still haven’t heard a specific date upon which to expect the coveted inoculations.
“There’s still a lot of uncertainty around the ‘what,’ ‘when’ and also number of vaccines we will receive,” said Dr. Anna Benvenuto, PMC’s chief medical officer. “There are several different vaccines that are going through the process of getting to the emergency-use authorization that would then allow the companies to start distributing them. We anticipate that (distribution) as soon as the end of next week, and into the following week.”
Moderna and Pfizer are the two companies that have touted vaccines with more than 94% effectiveness. Both of the leading vaccines will necessitate two doses for each recipient three to four weeks apart.
According to a Dec. 3 report by VTDigger, Chris Finley, the immunization program director for the Vermont Department of Health, has been assigned to coordinate logistics on how to ship, store and administer the vaccine, as well as to persuade Vermonters to get it. 
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to give emergency authorization to the first COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer by Dec. 10. The first batch for the state is expected to include 5,800 doses, which will be administered to health care workers and long-term care residents, according to Finley. The United Kingdom recently cleared the Pfizer vaccine for distribution.
The state will also offer the vaccine to roughly 25,000 health care workers who provide direct care to patients, including doctors and nurses, as well as nursing home staff and emergency responders, according to the Digger report. The state is still finalizing which people will qualify for the first round, according to Finley.
State and federal authorities will clear the vaccine for wider distribution among the population once more of it has been prepared. The elderly, infirm and essential workers will be near the front of the line before the vaccine is made available to lower-risk Vermonters. 
“I’m looking forward to our ability to start the vaccination process within our state,” Benvenuto said. “There’s still a lot to be learned about COVID-19, and looking at numbers — we’d have to have some many more people becoming immune for us to actually be able to end this pandemic and return to normalcy. I think this vaccine is our pathway toward return to a more normal way of life for our community.”
Editor’s note: The article includes information from a Dec. 3 VTDigger article authored by Katie Jickling.

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