LANSING, Mich. – Michigan’s top health official provided a rough timeline of when she hopes a COVID-19 vaccine could be available to the state’s general public.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, spoke about the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines during Gov. Gretchen Whitmer‘s COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday.
“We are still working hard on planning for when a coronavirus vaccine becomes available,” Khaldun said.
Both Pfizer and Moderna have submitted requests to the Food and Drug Administration for authorization to use their vaccines in the fight against COVID-19.
The FDA and Centers For Disease Control and Prevention are going through the process of reviewing data, and Khaldun expects a final determination by mid-December.
“We are actively working on plans for distribution when these vaccines become available,” Khaldun said.
The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at very cold temperatures -- minus-70 degrees Celsius, according to Khaldun. It has to be stored in special cold freezers, which is an additional distribution complication.
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As of now, there are 48 hospitals and 12 health departments in Michigan that have the capabilities to store the Pfizer vaccine in those freezers, she said.
“There are also over 100 hospitals and local health department sites across the state that have the ability to store and distribute the Moderna vaccine, which does not have to be stored at such a cold temperature,” Khaldun said.
Hopeful vaccine distribution timeline
When Michigan first receives the vaccine, it will be in very limited quantities, she said.
“Our first priority would be to keep our health care systems operating and to protect those who are the most vulnerable,” Khaldun said. “Right now, this means that we are prioritizing vaccinating frontline health care workers.
“As the vaccine becomes more available, hopefully by January, we hope to quickly get vaccines out to people working in care facilities and residents of skilled nursing facilities. But all this is dependent on how quickly additional vaccine becomes available from the manufacturer.”
She said per CDC recommendations, the state will expand to other types of critical workers, such as educators.
Then, when enough doses are available, they will go to the general public.
“We hope to be able to have vaccine available to the general public by late spring,” Khaldun said.
Both vaccines will likely require two doses to provide immunity, she said. Those doses need to be separated by several weeks.
Khaldun said initial data suggests both vaccines are about 95% effective.
“We now know that vaccines will soon be available, potentially in the next two weeks,” Khaldun said. “So this is not the time to ease up.”