This is what the world has been waiting for since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic — a vaccine.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipped across the country Monday, with Washington set to receive 62,400 doses this week. Those initial doses are being sent to 39 facilities in 29 counties. UW Medicine began vaccinating staffers this week. However, there is some concern after Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday that Washington’s vaccine allocation will be reduced by 40% next week.
With the vaccine’s rollout to front-line health care workers comes an increase in curiosity about inoculation against the coronavirus.
FAQ Friday answers a small sampling of the mountain of vaccine questions Seattle Times readers have been asking this week.
When will people 65 and older not in long-term care facilities be vaccinated? How will they know when it is their turn?
People who fall into a higher, but not the highest, risk category because of age are going to have to wait a bit longer.
The state Department of Health (DOH) guidelines for who comes after high-risk workers in health care settings, high-risk first responders and those residing in or working in long-term care facilities are still being worked out.
DOH has gotten input from the National Academy of Medicine on the equitable distribution of the vaccine and is waiting on input from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention committee, which could be coming this weekend, Michele Roberts, the DOH acting assistant secretary, said during a news conference Wednesday.
“Next week, we’ll be able to use that to further our decision-making and be able to share information out about who will be next,” she said. “We don’t anticipate expanding beyond these 1a groups until mid-January at the earliest and that depends on a few different factors, including what the uptake of vaccine is, by the other 1a group and also what the ongoing supply is past Jan. 1.”
Should people who have had COVID-19 get the vaccination?
The CDC says people who have had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated. For those with a documented infection, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends people should get the vaccine about 90 days after the initial infection because there is evidence reinfection is unlikely during the three months following a COVID-19 infection.
There is still much to learn about the SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, the disease it causes, but there are cases of people catching it more than once, so people should get the vaccine once they are able, said Dr. Chris Spitters, health officer for the Snohomish Health District.
Public Health – Seattle & King County suggests people do not get tested for a previous infection for the purpose of deciding whether to get a vaccination.
Can someone who has been vaccinated still infect others?
Most vaccines do prevent the spread of disease, but it isn’t yet known if that is the case with the coronavirus vaccine, Spitters said.
The vaccines were developed and the clinical trials focused on how well the vaccine did for people showing symptoms and did not track asymptomatic cases or if a person can carry and spread the disease after vaccination, Roberts said.
“Even if you’ve been vaccinated, it’s just unknown if you could still transmit the disease to others,” she said.
Because of these unknowns, public health officials, are urging people to continue good hand hygiene, wearing face coverings, avoid gatherings and practice social distancing.
“We’re not done yet,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “We need to continue to avoid gathering indoors with people outside of our household, we need to continue wearing our face mask and we need to continue staying six feet away from other people at least for the next few months because COVID-19 transmission is going to continue to be difficult to control.”