'There's No Quick Fix For COVID-19,' Cautions Pennsylvania Secretary Of Health
Going to talk more now about how states are preparing to distribute those vaccines as they become available, and to do that, we're joined by Dr Rachel Levine. She is the Pennsylvania health secretary and also president of the Association of State Health Officials. Dr Levine welcome 12 Things considered. Thank you very much. I'm very pleased to be here. Will you walk us through the logistics for when Pennsylvania first receives its initial shipments of vaccines? I mean, where does it go? How do you keep it cold? What do you actually have to do? Sure. So we're all waiting the meeting of the FDA on December 10th. And then they will consider all of the data of submitted by the Fizer Corporation for the first vaccine. When they issue their emergency use authorization or you away, then operation Warp speed will distribute the vaccine. To hospitals in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation just to get specific is the federal government or or fives or corporation, sending it to the state of Pennsylvania to distribute it to hospitals. I I asked, because this vaccine has to be kept incredibly cold. It's not just like you can send a bottle of aspirin, right? So you are correct. This is an ultra cold chain vaccine that has to be kept at minus 80 C or or Celsius. So it will be operation works speed that will be sending it to the hospitals that we designate now will depend, of course about how much we're going to get, and it comes in trays of 975 bottles. So these have to be hospitals that can Deal with the cold chain and can deal with that amount of vaccine to then administer. Now, the CDC recommends that health care workers and residents of long term care facilities should get first access to these vaccines. That's a large number of people have you decided whether you're going to start With older healthcare workers or people with underlying conditions are only doctors and nurses who see covert patients. I mean, how are you going to prioritize within the priority groups? Sure. So we're going to be developing a decision tree for hospitals to use and we'll be finishing that this week. I want to point out that the distribution for the nursing home and other long term kitchen facilities Goes in a different way. So operation works speed working with Walgreens and CVS will be receiving the vaccine with those two pharmaceutical companies, and then they will be working to administer the vaccine in nursing homes and other long term care facilities. Do you have a sense of how many doses The first shipment is likely to include and how that compares to the number of people in this top priority. First group, so we don't exactly know how many doses we're going to get in the first shipment. So you know, we had lots of discussions with Operation Warp speed, you know, will be looking to attack the end of next week or certainly when they're going to be sent out to know exactly how many doses we're going to get in the first week. And then the expectation our weekly shipments to the hospitals and to Walgreens and CVS for those distributions. I gotta ask a lot of depending here on the ability of operation Warp speed to carry this out effectively And with Corona virus testing, the federal government kind of fell down. I mean, There weren't enough tests. Some of the tests were not accurate. Initially. How confident are you in the ability of this Trump Administration program to get this very difficult job done? We have heard directly from General Purna. You know, we have confidence in them, but I'm sure it will be a significant logistical challenge. This has to occur throughout the United States, all at the same time to all of the states, the territories. And then some specific large cities. And are you also concerned about the smooth handoff from one administration to another? I mean, if the distribution depends on Operation Warp speed, which is a Trump administration program will the Trump Administration only has so many more weeks in office. Now, the Department of Defense under General Karna, you know, will still be there in terms of continuity, But in terms of the representatives from helping human services and the administration, we would like to think that they'll be robust conversation. Nation and communication as the administration transitions. Obviously, that has not happened as much as it should have yet, But we're hoping that all those communications will be going on forthcoming. Just to get back to the scale of the logistical challenge here. This is a vaccine requires two doses weeks apart. Do you have the infrastructure to track and time who has had a first dose when yes, we do. But that is a information technology challenge in terms of making sure that we get the right vaccine into the right person at the right time. And then not only the visor vaccine, but the Madonna vaccine that also is a to dose vaccine. We've heard so many states talk about the extreme budget pressure that they are under and this is an expensive undertaking. Do you have the money? You need to do it? And if not, do you think the federal government is ready to provide it well, it will be essential for the federal government to provide more funding to the States territories in cities that will be tasked with ministering the vaccine. Operation works speed cost billions and billions for the development of the vaccine on Lee $340 million has been allocated for the next part of the mission, the distribution and the administration so clearly states and territories and cities. They're going to need more funding from the federal government to finish and accomplish this mission. These issues you're talking about could occupy you for more than 40 hours a week every week, and you are at the same time dealing with a spike in Corona virus cases and having to contact trace people who may have come in contact with exposed individuals, overcrowded hospitals. How are you juggling all of this at once? Well again. This is the public health challenge of a lifetime. I don't think any of us have seen a 40 hour week. You know, in our memories I stand corrected three ways to deal with the pandemic. You can work on containment that involved the testing and contact tracing very hard to contain a virus that has spread this far. For example, Today we are reporting 11 over 11,000 new cases. In Pennsylvania. It's impossible to contact that many people, so we have to prioritize. We prioritize to congregate, setting such as nursing homes and other long term care facilities, Correctional institutions, schools, etcetera, Then we have mitigation. Basic mitigation sets his mass and hand washing and social distancing. And then in Pennsylvania, you know we had to have a stay at home advisory. And you know, we have really tried to recommend that people avoid not only large gatherings but small gatherings. And then they'll be the vaccine those of the tools and the public health to box that we have to work with. When you're dealing with community spread on the level that we are seeing now, where there is so much of this disease and so much transmission of it. Do you have to change your approach? I mean it, Zeke gone from hand to hand combat to fighting an army out. Imagine it has And so the basic public health tool of containment, which we would do for a small measles outbreak or for it outbreak of tuberculosis? That is extremely difficult for public health to do when we're seeing this type of widespread community transmission, and then we have to pivot to more and more mitigation. It's a very unpopular it is made public health officials sometimes unpopular throughout the nation, but they're absolutely essential to try to stop the spread. And then we have the light at the end of the tunnel, which is the vaccine, but there's no quick fix to hope in 19. After Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania Health Secretary and president of the Association of State Health officials. Thank you for talking with us in the middle of everything else that you were doing. My pleasure. Thank you very much.