COLUMBUS, Ohio –The state has told hospitals, local health departments and other providers that if there are extra doses left over after a COVID-19 vaccine clinic, then they must try to find people in the 1A or 1B priority groups to vaccinate before the shots expire.
Vaccines have a shelf life, and then they become ineffective or spoil. Many readers wrote to cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer last week – when we sought their questions about the state’s vaccine effort – wondering if they could get leftover shots when the people they are intended for don’t show up.
Melanie Amato, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Health, said that the providers must first identify people in the 1A group – a category currently being vaccinated that covers health care workers or residents of nursing and other congregate homes – or the 1B group – older Ohioans, adults who work in schools or people with certain pre-existing conditions. The 1B group will start being vaccinated next week.
“If none of those individuals are available due to time constraints or lack of availability of priority individuals, facilities may administer vaccine to any individuals eligible under the appropriate FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA),” Amato said in an email, which states that the vaccine is allowed for older teens and adults.
Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer sent a dozen questions to Amato and a spokesman for Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday. We’re still awaiting other answers. Meanwhile, Amato had a response to a second question:
“Are county emergency management agencies adequately equipped and funded to do what they are being asked to do? If not, will that be up to the counties to remedy?”
Amato replied that one of the jobs of county emergency management agencies is to routinely “write and exercise plans” to address the logistical movement of resources.
“County EMAs serve as a resource support agency, collaborating with their local health departments to assist when needed,” she said.
Throughout the pandemic, there have been county agencies that needed money or supplies that they couldn’t get locally or regionally. They have the ability to request assets from the state through a resource request process with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, she said.
We have also been working on answering other questions sent by readers.
Readers asked how long the vaccine is expected to be effective and if revaccinations will be needed at some point.
The answer, it turns out, is unknown.
“We won’t know how long immunity produced by vaccination lasts until we have more data on how well the vaccines work,” the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states on a vaccine fact page.
Readers wanted to know what’s in each vaccine, and whether someone who is allergic to ingredients in one of the vaccines could request the other. Has anyone been hospitalized as the result of a COVID-19 vaccine allergy?
We’ll start with ingredients. The federal government has approved at this point vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna.
Pfizer’s vaccine contains the following, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:
-Messenger ribonucleic acid, or mRNA, which are pieces of genetic material
-Four types of lipids: (4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate); 2 [(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide; 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3- phosphocholine; and cholesterol
– monobasic potassium phosphate
– sodium chloride
-dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate
Moderna’s vaccine contains the following, the FDA states:
-Four types of lipids: SM-102; polyethylene glycol [PEG] 2000 dimyristoyl glycerol [DMG]; cholesterol; and 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC]
If someone is allergic to the ingredients in one of the vaccines, can they get the other?
In these early months of the vaccine rollout, the answer will often be no.
Supply is limited, and many people will not get a choice simply because the provider that is administering the shot may not have vials available from each company.
Additionally, providers may be limited to which vaccine they get based on their capacity for ultra cold storage.
Has anyone been hospitalized as the result of a COVID-19 allergy?
There have been a handful of people taken to the hospital after receiving the vaccine.
The most severe was an Alaska health care worker who experienced an anaphylactic reaction — flushing and shortness of breath — about 10 minutes after getting a Pfizer shot. Symptoms subsided after she was given epinephrine. The woman was is middle-aged and had no history of allergies. She stayed in the hospital two nights.
The Anchorage Daily News reported that the FDA and CDC were investigating.
The apparent allergic reaction did not stop Alaska in its vaccine effort.
Most reactions are milder, if they occur at all. An FDA research team released a report Jan. 6 announcing 21 cases of anaphylaxis out of 1.8 million doses given.
It recommended that providers screen people for allergies and warn them about potential effects — according to CDC guidelines. It said providers needed to have the necessary supplies available to respond to anaphylaxis, since 71% of the reactions happened within 15 minutes of getting the shot.