MDH COVID-19 briefing: State health officials discuss phases of vaccine distribution

Tommy Wiita
Updated: December 01, 2020 03:31 PM
Created: December 01, 2020 02:58 PM

On Tuesday, Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm and Director of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control Division Kris Ehresmann addressed the current COVID-19 situation in the state and what the vaccine phases of distribution will look like.

Malcolm noted the seven-day rolling average of the virus positivity rate has continued to drop in recent weeks. As of Tuesday, it stands at 11%, down from 14.4% the week prior, and down from over 15% the week prior to that.

Still, the pandemic is at a critical stage at this time, and Malcolm noted it's "encouraging" but it's too early to consider a permanent trend as waves of data have occurred in the past.

MDH: 3,570 new COVID-19 cases, 22 new deaths in latest report

"We are still in challenging weeks ahead with tight hospital capacity, the aftereffects of holiday travel, among other things," Malcolm said. "Knowing we have these challenges yet to endure, have to realize these challenges are temporary."

Regarding recent vaccine trials, both Malcolm and Ehresmann called each day "a sign of encouragement," speaking on the progress and success of the trials thus far.

Ehresmann reassured safety concerning the vaccines, as any vaccine that is not deemed safe is immediately thrown out and noted. The federal government has also stepped in to cover the costs of the vaccine so when it's ready, it can be distributed right away. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention met on Tuesday to discuss how the process of distributing the vaccine will look like once that point has been reached.

When the vaccine is ready to be shipped out, it will be done in phases. Ehresmann said it will be done in three phases:

  • Phase one will be focused on health care workers specifically;
  • Phase two will be focused on the most vulnerable and will eventually open up to the general public;
  • Phase three will be when the vaccine is in good supply and will be distributed in the best way to get the public vaccinated.

An FDA advisory group known as the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRPAC) is set to meet on Dec. 10 to review Pfizer data and Dec. 17 to review Moderna vaccine data. A decision will then be made whether or not to authorize the vaccines. Once the FDA approval is given, an advisory board will again meet to discuss guidelines and recommendations for the vaccines.

Ehresmann said it will take a bit for all Minnesotans to receive a vaccination, so she reminds everyone to keep following the CDC guidelines.

"There's light at the end of the tunnel but we have to stay the course a bit longer before we reach the end," she said.

Other items to note from the briefing on Tuesday:

  • Malcolm said the department is working with 56 long-term care facilities for staffing support needs. National Guard teams have been utilized as well as some help from federal teams regarding these facilities. The commissioner called it an "ongoing challenge" and another need to reduce community spread.
  • Ehresmann noted that kids will not be able to receive a vaccine right away. Work is still being done to ensure safety for children. The vaccine should be available for children "in the coming weeks and months" after adults receive vaccinations, Ehresmann said.


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