Nurse Kathe Olmstead, right, gives volunteer Melissa Harting, of Harpersville, New York, an injection as a study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, in July.


ASHLAND Local health departments will play an important role in the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Chris Crum, executive director of the Greenup County Health Department, said he expects vaccine distribution in Kentucky will occur toward the end of the year, but it won’t be available to everyone.

“You’re going to see health care workers and first responders have access, initially,” he said, adding health departments and emergency management personnel will likely distribute the vaccine. “We can’t afford to be short-staffed on those who take care of those most in need.”

Residents of long-term care facilities will also be high priority for getting vaccinated. Crum said pharmacies will likely be tasked with that job.

Studies continue to examine the behavior of the virus to determine how the vaccine will be distributed and to whom.

“There’s always a push for school-aged children and school systems (to get vaccinated), but it’s not necessarily the way to go,” Crum said. “We haven’t seen the most harmful effects for the youth, but if they’re the ones spreading it while they’re asymptomatic or causing the most quarantines, we might need to get them next.”

There are currently two promising vaccines: One produced by Pfizer must be stored at minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit and is more than 90% effective; one made by Moderna may be stored at 25 degrees Fahrenheit and is 94.5% effective.

Crum said because of storage requirements, he expects the Moderna vaccine will be more widely distributed.

“They aren’t recommending we purchase any extremely low-temperature freezers, so it makes me think it’s not going to be the one that requires an extreme temperature,” Crum said. “Also it might be that another one will have better efficacy and then you would have something you put a lot of investment into that won’t be useful.”

Crum said the University of Kentucky Medical Center has been involved in vaccine trials for a month, but he said he doesn’t know which vaccine was tested there.

While the country inches toward getting vaccinated, Crum said it hasn’t been established how long the vaccine will protect the recipient.

“I believe you’ll need two doses to get the full strength out of it,” he said. “After the first one, you’ll be mostly covered, but the second one will give you full coverage.”

Pfizer and Moderna continue gathering safety data the Food and Drug Administration has deemed necessary for consideration of an emergency use authorization that would allow the companies to distribute the vaccine during the pandemic.

Moderna said it intends to file “in the coming weeks” with the FDA for authorization of the company’s vaccine for emergency use.

Moderna has said it expects to be able to ship about 20 million vaccine doses in the United States by the end of the year. Next year, the company said it expects to be able to make 500 million to 1 billion doses worldwide.

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