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State Health Officer explains coronavirus vaccine process

He said the first vaccines could make it to Alabama by the end of the year.

Posted: Oct 15, 2020 6:07 PM
Updated: Oct 15, 2020 7:28 PM

The State Health Officer gave WAAY 31 an update on the coronavirus vaccine process, and how long it could be until we have one to use in Alabama.

Scott Harris, State Health Officer, said Thursday the state is submitting its COVID-19 vaccination plan to the federal government on Friday and they expect a response in two weeks.

"Over the past 3 to 4 weeks, we've really been talking every single day with the CDC and the federal partners because we're asked to submit a plan to them tomorrow," he said.

Harris said his team has spent the last month preparing a plan on how it will distribute COVID-19 vaccines across the state, and the first doses could be here before 2021.

"The things that we know or we think we know are that all of the federal folks we've spoken to all this time have suggested that we will probably have some type of vaccine product out by the end of the year," he said.

Harris explained they have to decide who will be able to get the vaccine when the first batches arrive and that's a part of the plan they submitted to the federal government.

"It will not be in large amounts at that time. On one hand, we are worried about people being hesitant the vaccine and what the uptake is going to be. We also think we're going to have a scarce resource. I think that the amount we have will not be enough for the people that want it," he said.

No vaccines have been approved yet, but Harris explained there could be 5 to 7 different vaccines that hit the market at once.

"Every product isn't going to be appropriate for every person, so for example, some vaccines are being tried in phase three studies with people who have chronic comorbidities, chronic medical conditions. Some of them are being tried in certain age groups, some of them are being tried in various demographic groups, and so it may well be not everyone is going to be the right one for everybody," he said.

He explained they want everyone in the state to know the work that goes into the plan and want to continue to talk about vaccines to make people comfortable in getting it when it arrives.

"This is a really, really complicated plan to put together. We don't know when the doses are coming and we don't know how much product we are going to get," he said.

Harris said they expect to hear back from the feds on their plan by Oct. 27. Once it's been approved and finalized, they'll release it to the public so everyone in the state is prepared for when the vaccine is released.

He explained why people can trust that the coronavirus vaccine trials happening right now are working normally despite news that some of them are having to change their methods.

Harris said hearing COVID-19 vaccine trials are being paused for safety concerns is a good thing. He explained that's something that happens with many trials and should be a sign to everyone that thorough studies are being performed.

Harris explained the advisory committee of immunization practices has a longstanding process for vaccines. He said they're responsible for evaluating clinical trials and medical evidence. Harris explained if the ACIP accepts a vaccine, it's something he trusts and accepts. He explained why the group isn't politically motivated.

"It's not a political group, it's not appointed by the government, it's not connected to this administration or any other administration. And that's the approval that has to occur, before it's going to be released or is going to be made available," he said.

Harris said immunity is important and it's the next step to stopping the virus. That immunity will be achieved with a successful vaccine.

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