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When will COVID vaccine get to Wisconsin? Dr. Rai says it could be next week

Published: Dec. 8, 2020 at 7:19 AM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - British health officials are now administering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The FDA is expected to approve the vaccine for people in the United States as early as this week. That means doses could be in Wisconsin as soon as next week.

“There’s some logistics to be worked out with the state and the federal government. But hopefully that will happen this week so we’re ready for next week,” says Prevea Health President and CE Dr. Rai.

Dr. Rai joined us on Action 2 News This Morning to discuss the vaccine, the approval process, and stress the importance of avoiding large gatherings for Christmas.

Dr. Rai joins us Tuesdays and Thursdays. Have a question? Email news@wbay.com.

Miss a segment? Find them here: https://www.wbay.com/health/drrai/

FIRST COVID VACCINE

A UK woman is the first person outside of a trial to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

“It is huge. You think about the pandemic overall, and where we started. January, February around the world. March, really, here in our town. We’ve been waiting for this day. It’s a sign there’s hope. We can’t read too much into the hope’s going to be instantaneous. Remember, she needs a second shot. She has to wait 30 days after that. And then we need to repeat that hundreds of millions of times over, to actually get where we need to be. Until we get there, wearing our masks, physically distancing, preventing more people from dying. If we can get control of our numbers, and have a shot of this efficacious, it will make a bigger difference.

“It’s only a matter of months. I think we need to look at it that way to save tens of thousands of lives, hundreds of thousands of lives, if you look at the predictions. If we’re able to control what’s going on now, the immunization will have a bigger impact. Right now, it won’t have as big as an impact given where things are.”

LEARNING FROM THE U.K.

“There’s a lot of logistics questions with this. The vaccine’s unique in its storage. How you prioritize. How you give it. We’re all paying attention to what the UK’s doing and learning from our colleagues over there.”

TWO-SHOT PROCESS

“As far as our planning’s going, it’s definitely making sure that when you have that first shot that you’re getting appointed for your second shot and that you’re getting reminders to do that. It’s difficult because the Pfizer shot’s 21 days, the Moderna shot’s 28 days [Ed. note: corrected dates]. So we need to be able to schedule it, make sure you know what you got the first time so you get the right one the second time. There’s a lot of logistics. That’s what we’re spending every day working on. We’ll be ready by the time we’re allowed to give it.”

FDA TO APPROVE VACCINE FOR US

“The FDA has had all the literature. They’ve had a chance to review the science. There’s a very similar board in the UK. It’s not like our medical textbooks are different across the pond. I don’t expect there to be an issue. There always could be if they discovered something, but I don’t expect there to be an issue. Hopefully we move forward next week with delivery.”

WHEN WILL WISCONSIN GET THE VACCINE?

“The way this is going to work is the federal government will deliver directly to the hubs that the state has identified. So those hubs are kept a little quiet and the shots will get to them, and then medical groups, or clinics or hospitals, will get an allotment from that hub to be pulled out of that freezer to be given. So there’s some logistics to be worked out with the state and the federal government. But hopefully that will happen this week so we’re ready for next week.”

THANKSGIVING CASES

“It’s an unfortunate situation. We always ask people what they were involved in or where they may have gotten it so we can do some contact tracing even when they come into the emergency department or the hospital. Now we have Thanksgiving cases in our intensive care unit. The one thing we really wanted to prevent. Hopefully, it’s a minority of cases and hopefully people did the right thing. But as we head into Christmas, it’s important to understand what we warned about at Thanksgiving is happening.”

CHEMO AND COVID VACCINE

Are cancer patients on chemo eligible to get the vaccine?

“Number one, if you’re on chemotherapy you could be immune-compromised, and that could move you into a higher need category, so it’s good to talk to your oncologist. The type of vaccine that you’re going to receive, if it’s the mRNA kind, it’s not something that’s going to get you infected with COVID, no matter where your immune system is, so it should be safe. Once again, it’s something to talk to your oncologist about to make sure you’re going to mount that immune response to COVID.”

COVID AND MANDATORY VACCINES

Why isn’t it mandatory for all healthcare workers to get the vaccine?

“Usually those mandates are done on a company-by-company basis. There’s no universal mandate for any vaccine, such as the flu vaccine, every hospital sets its own standards. Every health clinic sets its own standards. I think initially you’re not going to see a mandate from most of us because we have universal masking going on. Just like with the flu shot, if you work in healthcare and you say you don’t want the flu shot, you have to wear a mask at all times to make sure you’re protecting others and making sure you’re wearing the right amount of personal protective equipment when you go into an infected room. Because we’re going to have universal masking in healthcare for quite some time, ‘til we feel like there’s enough immunity in the community that there’s no COVID, you’ll have to wear a mask. That’s why there’s no mandate.”

MASKING IN HEALTHCARE

“It really depends on the circumstance. If we’re going into a room where we feel like there’s a high risk, you have a COVID-19 patient, they’re going to aerosolize in any way, we wear an N95. It’s important to remember when we see patients, we’re not just wearing a surgical mask. We’re wearing a face shield. There’s more personal protective equipment. So the reason not to vaccinate--to have it mandatory--is all the protection is there for us.”

POST-VACCINE AND MASKING

“It’s important to remember that the first shot doesn’t count as much as the second shot. Which is 28-to-21 days apart, depending on the vaccine. And then a month later is when they really say you have immunity. So we have a few months. But remember, we have to get everybody else vaccinated, too, so wearing a mask is going to be important for the foreseeable future, until we get to a high enough level, where we understand our most at risk are immunized, we’re not getting overwhelmed in the hospitals, that our community is safe.”

VACCINE PRIORITY

How are people prioritized for the vaccine?

“It’s a great question. We still don’t know yet. We know that the committee at the CDC and our statewide committee, known as SDMAC, have prioritized what is in Group 1A, which is hospital frontline healthcare workers, clinic frontline healthcare workers, and those that are most at need living in long-term care situations: nursing home residents and those who work within a nursing home. That’s 1A. That’s the extent of our knowledge.

“We know there’s a class 1B, which is supposed to be essential workers. We don’t have a definition of that. And 1C, our most at risk not in long-term care. And we’ll start to see some definitions of that. These phases aren’t meant to be back to back. There will be a lot of overlap.”

GATHERING FOR CHRISTMAS

A viewer wants to know if a gathering of six adults and four children is OK for Christmas.

“Doing the right thing would be not to gather, even if you’re masked. You don’t all live together. Avoid the interactions. We had a really good response from a lot of people over Thanksgiving by not getting together. But unfortunately, certain people did. And now we’re starting to see people come into the hospital that got infected over Thanksgiving. It happens. The only way to prevent that is not to gather.”

DYING AT HOME

A COVID patient has died at home. How long until it is safe to go back inside that home?

“I think it’s important to understand that we don’t know the surface longevity of COVID. It’s anywhere from 72 hours to two weeks. So really, after two weeks, you’re safe to go in there. It’s not really about what’s in the air. It’s about what you’re cleaning up. Making sure you’re using the right materials to clean with, and wear a mask. Not because you’re going to catch COVID from the air. But it will prevent you from touching your nose and your mouth and it will prevent you from infecting yourself off a surface, which is still pretty rare.”

POSSIBLE BENEFITS OF MRNA VACCINE

COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA technology. Will mRNA vaccine also help prevent other diseases, such as certain types of cancer?

“We’re really excited about mRNA technology. We’ve seen it work here with these two vaccines. We’ve seen how quickly it can come to market and be researched. So, this will not be the last we hear of mRNA. We’re looking at different therapies, different diseases where it could be used. I expect to see a lot more of those four letters.”

CDC AND QUARANTINE GUIDELINES UPDATE

The CDC has released options to reduce the length of quarantine for some people.

“There’s a lot of changes going on right now and the state just adopted them. It’s important to understand the recommended quarantine is still 14 days. Now there is an option to end it earlier. Ten days if you don’t have any symptoms, you can end it earlier as long as you continue to symptom monitor. And if you get tested on day six and it’s negative, and you know that on day seven you can end early. You still have to monitor for 14 days. But really, the hallmark of this is to maintain the 14 days if you can.”

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