INDIANAPOLIS — Three potential vaccines nearing government approval are bright spots in the nation's grim battle with COVID-19.
"It's very exciting and we are ready, willing and able and can’t wait to get them," said Dr. Chris Weaver, senior VP of Clinical Effectiveness for IU Health.
But before any Indiana hospitals start vaccinating anyone, Weaver explained that state health officials and individual health care providers will review the FDA and CDC findings.
"Everybody is so prepared and ready and has their experts ready and waiting. We will give it the extra look and reviews, but we feel good about it," Weaver said.
Distributing vaccines will be a complicated and difficult task. One version has to be stored at nearly 100 degrees below zero.
IU Health has already purchased additional freezers and identified the staff and locations needed to administer the vaccines. According to the Indiana Department of Health COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, the first shipments will go to frontline health care workers.
"That includes staff at nursing homes and all the frontline health care workers in nursing homes to dialysis units to hospitals, all of the above," Weaver said.
Vaccines, according to the plan, will be divided among counties based on their percentage of the state's health care workers. The largest share, one-in-five doses, will go to Marion County. Hamilton County will receive about 5 percent and Johnson County just over 2 percent.
That is less than half the amount of vaccine needed to protect an estimated 400,000 health care workers. However, national studies show only half of Americans are willing to try the new vaccines.
"If that number holds up and you take the 400,000 and cut that by 50 percent," Weaver said. "If we get 160,000, 180,000, we'll be close to hitting all those who are willing in the frontline health care workers get vaccinated."
The big question is when.
At best, the first shipments are expected to reach Indiana by mid-December. There probably won't be enough to begin vaccinating the general public until mid-summer.