Before a vaccine is available to the general public, it must go through the federal vaccine approval process. Once approved, it must then be manufactured and distributed.
Here’s the path your COVID-19 vaccine may take to you, if you live in Ohio
In Ohio, as well as many other states, establishing which providers will administer the COVID-19 vaccine is a crucial first step. This involves recruitment and enrollment of healthcare entities that wish to distribute a vaccine. Any healthcare organization, including hospitals, pharmacies, local health districts and nursing facilities, that wants to become a COVID-19 vaccine provider must enroll through Ohio’s registration tool. Once approved, training and support will be provided to all COVID-19 providers.
During training, approved providers learn how to properly store and handle the COVID-19 vaccine. Included in this protocol are Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on receiving, repacking and monitoring the temperature of the vaccine. Successful education of these techniques is required, and protocols must be followed. Some of the vaccine candidates have stringent storage requirements, including being stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit.
Currently, Ohio is planning a three-phase, priority-based distribution process for the COVID-19 vaccine.
The first phase is when supplies are limited, so priority will shift to those at high risk for COVID-19. This includes older adults in crowded settings (like nursing homes), people with underlying medical conditions, some healthcare workers and first responders.
When the vaccine supply increases, the distribution process can enter phase II, where the vaccine can be administered to a larger quantity of the population.
Phase III begins as supply and demand stabilize. This is when the COVID-19 vaccine will be available to all people who wish to be vaccinated.
Some vaccine candidates require two doses, each about 21 days apart. This will be taken into consideration with distribution.
How the COVID-19 vaccine is different from other vaccines
The COVID-19 vaccine is on an accelerated approval timeline. Many other vaccines can take 10–15 years to produce from start to finish. Despite being fast-tracked, any approved COVID-19 vaccine will still need to successfully complete all three phases of a clinical trial during research and development. The safety requirements are the same as other vaccines, it’s just the timing from development to approval that is much faster.
To learn more about how the CDC is ensuring the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine, check out their Ensuring Vaccine Safety information page.
If you think you may have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19, call your primary care doctor or the Ohio Department of Health call center. The call center is now open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. to answer your COVID-19 questions, and can be reached at 1 (833) 4-ASK-ODH (1 (833) 427-5634).
The information in this article was updated on November 10, 2020. For the latest information concerning COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website. For the latest information concerning the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, visit Pfizer’s website.