GOV. CHARLIE BAKER filed a COVID-19 vaccination distribution plan with the federal government on Friday that calls for distributing the 300,000 doses expected to arrive this month as the first of a two-dose regime, with a second dose to be taken three weeks after the first.
The initial recipients will be healthcare workers exposed to or treating people with COVID-19, including employees of hospitals, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and emergency medical service providers. The other high priority groups are those with underlying medical conditions, those over 65, and essential workers. Baker said in a press conference earlier this week that the general population will likely not have access to the vaccine until this spring.
The plan assumes initial delivery of almost 60,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which is expected to be approved for emergency use on December 15. The Moderna vaccine is expected to be approved for emergency use on December 17. In a statement, the Baker administration said it anticipates the federal government will soon issue emergency use authorizations for additional vaccines.
Those who receive initial doses of a two-dose regime will receive text messages reminding them when to take the second dosage. The reminder function is not expected to go live until February.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are said to be 95 percent and 94 percent effective, respectively.
The state will use the decade-old Massachusetts Immunization Information System as its vaccine registry, ordering, and inventory system.
Pfizer’s vaccine must be kept at minus-70 degrees Celsius, and will be distributed to states, once it is approved, in Pfizer’s own GPS-tracked coolers filled with dry ice.
Distribution will occur in phases. In phase one, when vaccines are in short supply, the first shipments will go to large hospitals currently dealing with a surge of cases, then community health centers.
During phase two, when supplies are more plentiful, the vaccine will be distributed through a wider network that includes all licensed physicians, advanced practice nurses specializing in internal medicine, family medicine, obstetrics, and gynecology.
“This broad network of vaccine providers will enable the timely distribution of doses in anticipation of a surge in demand for the vaccine,” wrote the Department of Public Health in its plan. The agency is expected to monitor vaccine usage and adjust allocations based on demand in certain areas.
Prior to being approved to receive vaccine, providers will have to attest that they have the appropriate storage units and processes available to keep the vaccines cold, and whatever storage units they have will need to be monitored by a digital logger that tracks the temperature.
Storage and handling temperature requirements for the COVID-19 vaccine will vary depending on the company that created it, ranging from 8 Celsius refrigerated, all the way down to -80 Celsius frozen.
The vaccine will be distributed to providers in minimum quantities of 100 doses and a maximum 1,000.
Registered pharmacists will be able to administer the vaccine during phase two, and emergency dispensing sites might be activated depending on the volume of vaccines available. During phase three paramedics working with local Emergency Medical Services providers, who have been active in delivering COVID-19 testing statewide with the support of EMTs, will be deployed to help with gaps in coverage and set up neighborhood level access points.
The state says it will ensure the cost of administering the vaccine isn’t a barrier to providers enrolling in the vaccination program by reimbursing providers through the CARES Act for people who are uninsured. Medicare will reimburse providers for administering the vaccine to those who carry Part D coverage. It is unclear what the costs, if any, will be to patients.
Payment arrangements with MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, and private insurers have not been negotiated yet.