With rumors of COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon, government entities are hashing out plans for potential distribution as early as this fall.
Despite the recent rumors, those plans started a while ago.
“The Pennsylvania Department of Health has a mass vaccination team that is constantly preparing for the need for mass vaccination from a pandemic,” said Maggi Mumma, deputy press secretary for the DOH.
Mumma said that team is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal entities to plan for a COVID-19 vaccine.
On a local level, planning for a distribution may not be as complicated.
Steve Bicehouse, director of Butler County Emergency Services, said county leaders will look to the state for guidance on how to proceed.
“We've always had a plan for vaccinations,” Bicehouse said.
The county's plan, developed in the early 2000s, would allow for the vaccination to be distributed on a mass basis in Butler County.
But the most probable vaccination process doesn't seem to be about mass distribution, according to Bicehouse.
He said the state at this time appears to be pursuing a normal distribution, similar to how flu shots are issued each year.
“Our current planning includes multiple pathways to provide (a) vaccine to the public and high-risk groups,” Mumma said.
The DOH is looking to collaborate with doctor's offices, pharmacies and other locations where vaccinations are already available.
Mumma said the DOH also may use mass vaccination clinics (MVCs) that help reach as many people as possible.
“Some sites may be closed MVCs, where people would get the vaccine at their place of work,” Mumma said. “Others may be open or public.”
Bicehouse said the county may need to arrange for specific distribution sites for first responders, if suggested by the state.
Mumma said the DOH is establishing the infrastructure needed for a statewide vaccination campaign.
Systems for ordering and maintaining vaccine inventory, documenting follow-up for multiple-dose patients and a public information campaign need to be developed.
“If there is limited access at first due to supply, we will be working under guidance from the CDC to push the vaccines to those most in need of the vaccine at first,” Mumma said.
The DOH will share information with the public as it becomes available.
The department's website continues to be updated with COVID-19 and pandemic information.