Delaware is focusing its vaccine efforts on first doses for eligible people, as the state's COVID-19 vaccine supply dwindles.
Those waiting for a second shot will have to continue waiting, but will receive priority when supplies allow, said Gov. John Carney in a press release Jan. 25.
“Due to limited vaccine supply, the state’s efforts will focus primarily on administering first doses to eligible individuals. As supply allows, the state will prioritize second doses for 1A individuals at greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19,” Carney said in the release.
First responders and emergency services workers were among the first to receive shots when the state began vaccinating in mid-December. On Jan. 22, the Office of Emergency Medical Services notified the Delaware State Fire Prevention Commission that follow-up second vaccines for first responders and EMTs would not be available. Ron Marvel, chairman of the commission, said they are waiting on guidance for the second doses as they become available.
DPH spokesman James Lee said new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control states that the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be given up to six weeks – 42 days – after the first dose. “DPH has paused scheduling second dose first responder vaccination events,” he said.
Speaking during a Jan. 26 Lewes Board of Health meeting, Dr. Paul Cowan, emergency medicine specialist at Beebe Healthcare, said it is important to get the first shot to establish some defense against the virus.
“You get some very measurable immunity to COVID virus after a single dose at the two-week mark,” he said, noting the first dose is about 80 percent effective for the Moderna vaccine and 50 percent effective for Pfizer. “You have some degree of protectivity at that point, so go ahead and get it. Then you just have to stay vigilant about getting that second dose when you can.”
Cowan said he doesn’t believe the first shot will be wasted if a second dose is given after 42 days.
“The utilization of a booster dose is pretty common with other vaccines,” he said. “You get a little bit of a different immune response when you get the second dose. The second dose really helps with long-term immunity.”
While volunteering during the recent drive-thru event in Georgetown, Cowan said he told everyone to get the second shot wherever they can after the required 21-day waiting period for the Pfizer vaccine or 28-day period for the Moderna shot.
“If you can find your brand of vaccine at a time in which you should get it, I would get it,” he said.
Vaccines rolling out slowly
In a Facebook Live forum Jan. 26, Carney said Delaware will receive a 16 percent increase in vaccines over the next three months – an amount that translates to 2,500-3,000 or more doses. Typically, Carney said, Delaware receives 15,000 to 20,000 doses of vaccine a week. The federal government doles out vaccine proportionally among states, he said. Vaccine producers Moderna and Pfizer are producing 4 to 5 million doses each week for a total of about 10 million for the entire U.S., he said. President Joseph Biden announced Jan. 26 that he has requested 200 million more doses, part of his pledge to vaccinate 1 million people a day in his first 100 days.
“Right now we're making allocation on a week-to-week basis because that's all we know. One week in advance,” Carney said. “
Over the next several weeks in Delaware, the amount of vaccine available will be tight, said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay in a Facebook Live forum.
“The amount of doses we're receiving is so limited in comparison to the number of individuals we want to get vaccinated,” she said.
There are 100,000 people on a waiting list for shots, and those shots will be rolled out to people who are most at risk of developing COVID complications.
Those who have signed up for their first vaccines will eventually be notified to schedule their second shots, Rattay said, but it may take several weeks.
“This is the challenge that we have. We've got more people who want the vaccine with not enough vaccines to go around,” Carney said.
New vaccination partnerships
The Delaware Emergency Management Agency and Division of Public Health will partner with Curative – a COVID-19 testing partner – to begin vaccination events for 65 and older Delawareans who have registered on the waiting list at vaccinerequest.delaware.gov. The first Curative events will be held this week in Dover, and DPH is inviting high-risk Delawareans 65 and older who have registered through the waiting list for those appointments. These initial Curative events are expected to vaccinate 750 this week, officials said.
“Our new vaccination partnerships...will help us vaccinate even more Delawareans, including many of our most vulnerable neighbors. We’ll continue to press forward with the goal of vaccinating as many Delawareans as quickly as possible as the vaccination supply allows,” Carney said.
Planning is underway for another DPH large vaccination event this weekend, which will also serve at least 2,000 Delaware seniors from the waiting list by appointment only. Information will be sent for that event to seniors on the waiting list. Delawareans 65 and older can still register on the waiting list. Delawareans without computer access can call the COVID-19 Vaccine Call Center at 1-833-643-1715, and a call center operator will assist them.
More than 21,000 Delawareans ages 65 or older as well as Phase 1A health care workers received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine during DPH and partner vaccination events the last two weekends in Dover, Wilmington, Delaware City and Georgetown. As of Jan. 26, Delaware has received a total of 120,850 vaccines and has used 82,699 doses, leaving 38,151 doses unused.
Officials said the state expects to increase allocations of the vaccine to certain pharmacies and health care providers that have enrolled in the state’s COVID-19 vaccination program. Enrolled pharmacies and providers, including Delaware’s hospital systems and certain specialty care providers, are vaccinating Delawareans age 65 and older. Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart, Aspira Health and the Camden Pharmacy also are now providing vaccinations to 65 and older clients with an appointment.
“We know that to reach all of the current and future phases in our vaccination effort, we have to have multiple opportunities and approaches, and we have been planning for that,” Rattay said. “There will be no one right way to get your COVID vaccine, and we are building new access points to serve eligible Delawareans now and in the future.”
Learn more at de.gov/covidvaccine.
Nick Roth contributed to this article