10-21 MN COVID-19 Vaccine Plan & Update from the Minnesota Department of Health
MN COVID-19 Vaccine Plan and Update from the Minnesota Department of Health 10-21-2020
The Minnesota Department of Health held conference call on Wednesday, Oct. 21 to brief members of the media on the latest public health information regarding COVID-19. This is a summary of that call.
Summary from MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm:
- 60,000 additional cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. yesterday, bringing the overall total to 8.2 million
- 949 Americans died from COVID, bringing the overall total to more than 221,000
- In MN, another 1,079 confirmed cases yesterday on volume of 15,733 tests
- 126,591 lab-confirmed cases in MN
- Tied record high for deaths yesterday, with 35
- So far there have been 2,281 COVID-19 fatalities in MN
- MDH deeply saddened and alarmed by the numbers, but not surprised by the number of deaths
- Numbers in Minnesota rising at a faster rate
- We need to understand that more cases will lead to more cases of serious disease, potentially with long-term complications, more people in the hospital and more deaths. We need to brace ourselves for that.
- We need everybody to understand what these numbers mean. If this continues, the impact on Minnesotans will be big.
- Even if you don’t get seriously ill, you may be passing it along to others who could get seriously ill.
- The numbers we’re seeing show that we may be on the road to trouble
- North Dakota health officials are so overwhelmed that they’re asking for people who test positive to do the work of informing their own close contacts, rather than having that task handled by public health.
- In Wisconsin, reports that their hospitals are close to overflowing, and the White House coronavirus task force says that Wisconsin is the fourth worst state in the nation for the rate of new infections.
- We all know that not everybody understands or believes the precautions are necessary. The people in the public health sector feel differently.
- There’s a need for all of us to work together toward a common goal and tolerate some personal inconveniences.
- This is a historical challenge for our state and our individual communities.
- Most Minnesotans who have tested positive haven’t become seriously ill. But there are people feeling long-term effects from the virus.
- To beat a pandemic, a majority following the recommendations isn’t enough. All of us have to make these personal sacrifices to keep everyone around us safe.
Summary from Kris Ehresmann, MDH Infectious Disease Director:
- We now have four vaccines in advanced stages of trials
- It’s too early to say when the first vaccine is going to become available to Minnesotans, but we are optimistic that there will be one or more coming in the months ahead.
- Our pledge to all Minnesotans is that we will move forward with a vaccine only when the evidence shows it is safe and effective.
- It’s important that we have a strong plan in place to effectively distribute a vaccine when it is ready, that we can effectively communicate how and when to get it, and that we make sure Minnesotans are confident that we have done everything possible to make sure it is safe and effective.
- Vaccine planning is based on several key priorities:
- First, any vaccine distributed in Minnesota must meet the same exacting science-based standards of other vaccines. This means thorough vetting and review by independent third-party experts before it is used. We will take our lead from the advisory committee on immunization practices, a national independent committee who will only recommend a vaccine that has met the safety criteria. And fully intend to move forward with vaccinations once we know it’s safe.
- Second — we must ensure that the distribution and availability of the vaccines is fair and reflects Minnesota’s priorities and values, especially in the early weeks when availability is limited.
- Third, the public sector can’t do this alone. We need to build and maintain trust with communities, and they must be partners in both the planning process and the distribution of the vaccine. We already working with community level leaders, and we will continue to do so to get out the vaccine and to get information out about the vaccine; including their safety, effectiveness and availability.
- We know the most effective approach to getting out a vaccine will be to establish partnerships, especially with Minnesota communities suffering from health disparities.
- Late last week, Minnesota and other states sent a 40-plus page draft vaccine plan to the CDC.
- The COVID-19 vaccine planning is built on the foundation of many other successful vaccine distribution efforts over the years, from H1N1 to measles to childhood immunization efforts over the decades.
- Draft plan provides a framework for vaccine planning. There’s still a lot of unknowns related to COVID vaccine. We’ll add more details as we learn more about the vaccine that will ultimately be rolled out.
- Vaccine availability and volume will vary as vaccines are coming online
- An executive summary of the draft plan will be posted on the MDH website.
- The expectation is that the COVID-19 will be provided to Minnesotans at no charge.
- Initial supply of vaccine is expected to be limited and prioritized to populations most at risk for COVID-19.
- We will be transparent in how these prioritizations are made, and the MDH commitment to equitable distribution of safe vaccine.
- Working to identify critical health care employees and other essential workers in MN. The MDH awaits additional guidance on prioritization from the CDC’s advisory committee on immunization practices.
- MDH will roll out the vaccine in phases to the prioritized populations as more vaccine becomes available.
- Misinformation and concerns:
- Many Americans share concerns about a COVID-19 vaccine. It’s natural for people to have questions or concerns on a new vaccine. People in public health will address those concerns with facts about the vaccine (how they were developed and the independent scientific reviews that were conducted). Information will be communicated in ways that are easy to understand and easy to access. The most effective spokespeople will be family doctors, community leaders and other trusted sources in people’s everyday lives.
- We have established a COVID-19 vaccine allocation work group made up of a diverse membership from multiple sectors. The charge of this group will be to take federal guidance on vaccine priority groups and tailor it for Minnesota.
- When complete, a written plan will be made publicly available.
- In all of our planning, safety is a priority.
Summary from Christine Lees, Dakota County Public Health:
- At Dakota County, vaccine planning started in late July
- Effort to make vaccine available for everyone in our community will take everyone working together to make it happen.
- Phase 1 planning is currently underway. We are working to identify who will administer COVID-19 vaccines to the populations most likely to be identified for those first doses. This will likely include long term care, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living, and adult group homes.
- We will also work with partners in the community (like nursing agencies, pharmacies, and primary care clinics) to help ensure the Phase 1 population has access to the vaccines they need.
- Working with the regional health care coalition who will help identify which groups will get vaccinated first when supplies are limited.
- Local public health is planning for “mission critical workers” during Phase 1, such as first responders, emergency medical service providers, or other staff such as public health nurses running the vaccine clinics.
- Other groups may be identified as “mission critical” but we don’t know the final list yet.
- Also working on how to provide vaccine to hard-to-reach communities — hoping to reach those who are uninsured and underinsured, people with mobility or transportation issues, or people without access to a health care home for a variety of reasons. We are planning to find creative ways to reach these populations, such as hosting mobile clinics, and drive-thru community clinics.
- Also starting Phase 2 planning
Summary from Laura Schwartzwald, co-founder of GuidePoint Pharmacy:
- What we have learned from the flu immunization process will be our basis for the COVID-19 vaccine planning for many areas of the state.
- the COVID-19 vaccine is likely going to be a two-dose vaccine series given from the same manufacturer in a short period of time.
Additional notes from the conference call:
- While COVID-19 has our attention at the moment, we are heading into flu season. The weekly flu report will be re-added to the MDH website tomorrow
- The latest figures show a 42% increase in Minnesotans getting their flu vaccine compared to this time last year
- The fewer cases of flu we have, the better it is for our health care system
- Malcolm said that the MDH is pledging that we will not administer vaccine in Minnesota unless it is safe and effective
- if we were in a situation where many of the normal checks and balances in the normal vaccine process did not happen, the MDH would flag that and let Minnesotans know that they have concerns
- The MDH put out a commitment to vaccine safety back on Sept. 8
- One of the vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer, is further along in their trials. It’s possible that there could be a vaccine before the end of the year.
- More deaths in greater Minnesota than in the metro over the last couple of weeks. The MDH says it showcases how it’s now a statewide phenomenon. Our case growth is greater in regions across the state than it is in the Twin Cities metro. We will see more and more deaths from greater Minnesota because of the high case load in that area.
- COVID fatigue is real in Minnesota and around the country. People are getting together for celebratory events and not adhering to the gathering limits that are still contained in the governor’s executive orders. The MDH has seen too many anecdotal reports of people who got sick yet didn’t get tested because they don’t want to hear that they have COVID. Despite our fatigue, we need to keep up with the preventative measures because they work.
- The MDH says they’re concerned about a health care worker shortage if health care workers get sick.
- Regarding vaccine distribution. Phase 1 “could take a while,” to get through the identified populations. It depends on how much vaccine the state receives.
- The increase in cases in long term care facilities is a concern. It is “pretty darn impossible” to keep the virus out of long term care settings with the amount of community spread and asymptomatic health care workers who don’t know they have COVID. Malcolm says it’s appropriate to take a look at the battle plan for long term care facilities to see what more they could do. However, the growth of cases in long term care facilities is a lot more stable than it is around the state as a whole.