INDIANAPOLIS – During Governor Eric Holcomb’s weekly COVID-19 press briefing, state health officials released new information on the state’s initial plans for a COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
Dr. Lindsay Weaver, Chief Medical Officer, said the federal government is telling them to prepare for a vaccine as early as mid-November, which is about two weeks away. Indiana does not know if that timeline will hold and they do not know how many vaccines they will get at first. But the state says they are ready to receive it.
“We have assembled a team to review all research related to the vaccine so that we can assure it is safe for Hoosiers and administer to the population at which it was studied,” said Dr. Weaver.
It is a race to prepare for the distribution of a vaccine as cases and hospitalizations continue to climb in Indiana. State health officials on Wednesday said a vaccine will not be administered until Indiana has immunization practice recommendations from the CDC’s Advisory Committee and until the state’s own team completes an evaluation.
“This is important because this is a new vaccine that will be approved under an emergency use authorization,” said Dr. Weaver.
State health officials said every state must identify one to five sites to serve as pilots for the initial distribution. They have surveyed every hospital system in the state for their ability to immunize not only their staff but also additional health care providers in their area.
Indiana expects to have the five sites initially that represent all geographic regions of the state. Dr. Weaver said this is just the initial pilot phase and many other hospitals have expressed an interest to participate. She said they will be engaging more partners as the vaccine becomes more widely available.
“We do know the first priority will be front line health care workers who come into regular contact with COVID-19 patients. This includes hospital staff and those in long-term care facilities,” said Dr. Weaver.
There was an ethical advisory board tasked by the state to help answer tough questions about who gets the vaccine first. Daniel Orenstein, a Visiting Assistant Professor at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, was a part of that team.
“Ultimately this comes down to who we think needs to have it first to protect the rest of the community and after that who is at highest risk,” he said. “This is about trying to be just and fair to everyone and trying to make sure the best use of limited resources.”
A group called Indiana Health Information Exchange, or IHIE, is now talking to the Indiana State Department of Health about how vaccination data will be tracked. They are the primary source of data for the state’s COVID-19 dashboard right now, according to IHIE’s CEO and President.
“We have been communicating with the state department of health to try to anticipate our role,” said John Kansky. “Where are these vaccines going to be given and what organizations are going to be giving them and how will that data be captured?”