Vt. health officials prepare for possible mid-December vaccine delivery

Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 4:10 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont health officials Friday said that with company’s like Pfizer now seeking emergency use authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine, Vermonters could start to see the first shipments in less than a month.

The first vaccine-maker to apply for emergency use authorization also has the trickiest one to transport. Because Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has to be stored at negative 94 degrees Fahrenheit, dry ice makers in Boston are seeing a booming business as the demand for super-cold storage soars.

“The demand is definitely higher right now for the vaccine makers. Because, as fast as they’re making the vaccine, they’re shipping it out,” said Marc Savenor, the owner of Acme Dry Ice in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The state of Vermont is one of those buying up dry ice and stocking up on super-cold freezers to get ready to receive the shots. “That part I don’t envision being a problem because we’ve seen that coming for a number of weeks -- that that will probably be the first one,” said Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine. He says we have cold enough freezers -- with more on the way -- and the ability to transport the vaccine safely. “Fortunately, there is a time period where you can take it out of that storage when it’s being transported elsewhere, and use more modest means, like dry ice, and not be as concerned about the temperature, because you’re delivering it to be administered.”

State officials also noted that other vaccine candidates like Moderna, which is also expected to apply for its emergency use authorization soon, will not require the same super-cold temps. As for who gets the vaccine first, Dr. Levine says the first priorities are high-risk health care workers. That will be followed by high-risk members of vulnerable populations like seniors with chronic diseases. “There will not be enough doses for every single person, but the number 20,000 is really a very fluid number right now,” he said.

We also asked about early data that points to Astrazeneca’s vaccine being effective, especially in older adults, and what that means for places like Vermont with an older population, and who are helping to test that vaccine. Levine says it’s good to see older adults included in the studies, and that all vaccine trials strive for diversity, but that it’s too soon to celebrate. “Early good news, but not enough information to go on,” he said.

Levine also commented on the antiviral drug Remdesivir, which a World Health Organization panel this week advised against using for hospitalized COVID-19 patients. He says that’s because it doesn’t help with survival rates, but could help people avoid being hospitalized. He says a recent antibody cocktail touted by federal officials has also been received with “less than enthusiastic” reviews from the Infectious Disease Society of America. He says that illustrates how quickly science develops during the pandemic.

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