A sigh of relief regarding the COVID-19 pandemic finally came last week, as emergency distribution of FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccinations were shipped out to county health departments all over the country.
Ottawa County received 975 vaccine doses just eight days before Christmas. Vaccines have been distributed among health care workers and first responders, as local orthopedic surgeon Dr. Dirk Bakker received the first vaccination at North Ottawa Community Health System. Even Grand Haven city council celebrated a photo of Public Safety Director Jeff Hawke receiving a vaccine at its Dec. 21 meeting.
With vaccinations continuing across the country, here are some things you need to know about the local distribution from county health officials.
When will the vaccine be readily available?
Ottawa County health officials cite experts that estimate that all adults will be able to get vaccinated by mid- to late-2021.
However, depending on your profession, health risk or age, you could be eligible to receive a vaccination before it is readily available to the average person.
As supplies of the vaccine increase, those at lower risks than health care workers and first responders will be eligible for the emergency-approved vaccine.
“We are happy our community is eager to get their vaccines, but we ask everyone to be patient,” OCDPH Health Officer Lisa Stefanovsky said. “Initially, we will receive a very limited supply. The next population group are those in essential and critical industries, followed by medically fragile and then the general population.”
Who gets the vaccine first?
There are four phases of vaccine distribution in Ottawa County:
Phase 1A includes health care workers who have direct or indirect exposure to patients and infective materials who cannot work from home and residents of long-term care facilities.
Phase 1B is frontline workers in essential, critical industries, such as laboratory workers and mortuary service workers.
Phase 1C includes people that are at a high-risk for severe COVID-19 illness and symptoms due to underlying medical conditions and those above the age of 65.
Phase 2 is simply a “mass vaccination campaign for all adults.”
It is not guaranteed that all vaccinations will be completed in one phase before moving on to another. Many of the vaccination phases will begin simultaneously, according to the Ottawa County Health Department.
This information could change based on the availability of more vaccine types, according to the Ottawa County Health Department.
“The timing of the start of vaccination in a phase is dependent on the supply of vaccine from the manufacturer, how vaccine is allocated from the federal level to Michigan, and the capacity to administer the vaccine to populations,” health department officials wrote.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has set a goal of vaccinating “70 percent of individuals 16 years of age or older, or about 5.6 million people, for COVID-19 by the end of 2021.”
These guidelines were formed based on CDC recommendations for COVID-19 vaccination distribution. CDC’s recommendations are based on ACIP, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, who also provided ethical practices and distribution advice when vaccinations are limited.
Is it safe?
Ottawa County health officials are working to assure its community that the vaccine is a safe, effective one. Here’s what they wrote to respond to questions of safety and effectiveness:
“The U.S. vaccine safety system ensures that all vaccines are as safe as possible. Safety is a top priority while federal partners work to make COVID-19 vaccines available. Before the FDA determines whether to approve a vaccine or authorize a vaccine for emergency use, clinical trials are conducted to determine how well it works.”
It is possible that some will experience side effects after vaccination, which include a sore arm, fever, chills and other symptoms that help your body signal that the vaccine is working. None of the FDA-approved vaccinations contain the live virus that causes COVID-19, OCDHP confirmed.
Is it free?
There will be no cost to those receiving the vaccination, as the federal government has already purchased millions of vaccines using taxpayer dollars.
“Vaccine providers will be able to charge a fee to administer the shot, but this fee should be covered by public or private insurance, or by a government relief fund for the uninsured,” OCDHP health officials wrote.