Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 03/08/2021 --After roughly one year of an extremely rough year, people are anxious to see the cases of COVID-19 brought to more manageable numbers and, if possible, eradicated completely.
One key component in bringing those dreams to fruition is the availability and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
"We now have three vaccines -- Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson Janssen -- that have been authorized for emergency use," said Dr. Tamara Sheffield, medical director of community health and prevention for Intermountain Healthcare. The distinction of being "authorized" is different from vaccines that have been "approved" in that vaccines distributed through Emergency Use Authorization are subject to specific federal regulations in terms access to the vaccine and careful monitoring of the results of the vaccination.
"It's a changing dynamic," said Dr. Sheffield. "The federal government supplies our state with the vaccines. Prioritization recommendations are made by the CDC and then each state's governor has the authorization to determine exactly how it will be implemented in their state, which is why there are variations from state to state."
During this process, there is a lot of federal oversight, as well as ongoing studies conducted as to the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines; all of which is over and above what the FDA would normally do.
Availability was recently extended to people age 50 and older, as well as certain adults with high-risk conditions. These groups were added to the previously authorized groups including K-12 teachers and school staff, first responders and non-hospital healthcare workers.
"We want to have order in the process," Dr. Sheffield said of the strategic rollout. "It was always planned as a staged approach, offering it to those with the highest risk first as supplies become available. We'll keep moving through those planned prioritization categories as efficiently as possible."
Throughout the process Dr. Sheffield said they are relying on a careful balance between the public's patience in waiting their turn and each individual's enthusiasm for getting the vaccine.
"We want to have every individual vaccinated," Dr. Sheffield said. "The more people who get vaccinated, the better the vaccines will work in a population that is not passing the disease around to each other."
In the meantime, individuals who have been vaccinated are asked to continue wearing masks and social distancing for several reasons.
"No vaccine is 100 percent protective," Dr. Sheffield said. "Some people who have been vaccinated and are exposed will still get sick, but they are more likely to have fewer symptoms and survive the illness with the vaccine."
So far there have been plenty of people ready to accept the vaccine as doses become available, though Dr. Sheffield said she knows there is a portion of the population that wants to wait and see how things unfold.
"For those individuals in the 'wait and see' mode, they're seeing that it's going well," Dr. Sheffield said. "They're seeing people becoming immune. The rates are going down in the country. It's having an impact."
Dr. Sheffield said she anticipates even more people will develop confidence in the safety and efficacy of the vaccines as they witness the positive effect it is having on other individuals.
In Utah, individuals can check qualifications and schedule a vaccine appointment by going to http://Intermountain.com/covidvaccine. Individuals can also find help through their local health department or coronavirus.utah.gov/vaccine.
Until the vaccines are available to everyone, Dr. Sheffield encourages people to practice healthy habits including abiding by COVID-19 protective measures.
About Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain Healthcare is a not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, 215 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,500 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs.