The University of Michigan is prepared to begin administering Pfizer vaccines as early as Dec. 15 pending government authorization, school officials confirmed in the weekly COVID-19 briefing Friday afternoon.
Anyone enrolled in the Pharmacy, Kinesiology, Nursing, Social Work and Medical schools who is exposed to patients will be included in the first phase of COVID-19 vaccine prioritization, according to Medical School professor Sandro Cinti.
COVID-19 vaccines will be distributed in three phases, according to Cinti, who is also co-lead of Michigan Medicine’s COVID-19 Vaccine and Therapeutics Task Force.
Phase 1 will be administered in three parts. Phase 1A, set to begin Dec. 15 if the Pfizer vaccine receives emergency approval next week, includes health care personnel and long-term care facility residents and staff. Pfizer has said the vaccine will be ready within hours after government authorization.
“We will start on the 15th — probably — of December in our phase one,” Cinti said. “We will ramp up as we get more vaccine. And we’re looking to start vaccinating people on the Hill in the hospital. And then we will also have off-site clinics in ambulatory care. Very quickly, we will move into Phase 1B, which includes the University.”
Phase 1B will vaccinate essential workers in sectors like education, food, utilities and transportation, including members of the University community. Cinti said Robert Ernest, director of University Health Service, and other University personnel are working on how to distribute the vaccine to the campus and Ann Arbor communities.
“1B is essential workers and this is why we added the University,” Cinti said. “(Getting) educators back to work, which includes K-12, the college campuses, is going to be important.”
Phase 1C includes senior citizens and others with high-risk conditions. The components of Phase 1 are planned to begin about five weeks apart from each other and overlap.
Phase 2 is set to begin in the late winter or early spring and will extend to the broader University community. A start date for Phase 3 has not been announced.
General students will likely be in the second phase of the vaccine’s distribution, unless they are high risk, which could move them to the first phase, Cinti said. He expects the University to vaccinate about 80,000 U-M community members in the coming months. Two doses are required for one person to be vaccinated in the process, which Cinti described as quick but safe.
“Will we get (completely vaccinated) before the fall semester?” Cinti said. “I can’t tell you that. I don’t know, but maybe we’ll have the teachers protected. We can’t rip off our masks right away — we have to wait — but teachers might feel better about teaching.”
University President Mark Schlissel said there is no plan to require U-M community members to be vaccinated, though it might be considered in the future.
“It’s gonna be a situation where the vaccine is limited in dose, and if I’ve got people that want to take it that are in risk groups — that are frontline health care providers, that are our faculty dealing with students, people that have actual risk — I’m gonna give it to them rather than forcing people who are unwilling,” Schlissel said.
When Michigan Medicine delivers a vaccine, that information will be incorporated in the state’s vaccine registry within 24 hours, according to Dana Habers, chief radiology department administrator. Habers said multiple reminders will go out to patients to ensure people come back for the second dose weeks laters.
Arnold Monto, professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health, is the chair of the Food and Drug Administration’s committee evaluating COVID-19 vaccines. His committee, which works to approve the efficacy and safety of potential candidate vaccines, will meet on Dec. 10 and 17 to discuss the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, respectively. In a recent interview with The Michigan Daily, Monto said the risk of taking a COVID-19 vaccine once one is approved will be no greater than other regular vaccines.
“This vaccine will have been approved by the standard mechanism,” Monto said. “By the time the vaccine becomes available to the general population it will have standard, non-emergency approval.”
Michigan Medicine has partnered with companies leading the pack in the race for a COVID-19 vaccine trials, including Janssen and AstraZeneca. A week after the AstraZeneca partnership was introduced, the trial was momentarily paused after an adverse reaction was observed in a participant. It was later resumed.
Fifty-eight percent of adults aged 50 to 80 say they are somewhat or very likely to get vaccinated to prevent COVID-19, according to a University Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation poll taken in September. Schlissel said he will want to “roll up” his sleeve as soon as he is eligible to receive the vaccine.
“Without a doubt, vaccination is the number one most effective intervention medicine has ever developed,” Schlissel said. “The amount of human suffering that’s been mitigated through vaccinations is unimaginable.”
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