PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Washington state Governor Jay Inslee gave a briefing on how the vaccine distribution will work in his state Sunday, saying the relief is welcome and long overdue.
“[The vaccine] cannot come soon enough – with Washington closing in on 200,000 total COVID cases and approaching 3,000 deaths – this help is much needed to prevent further infection, hospitalization and loss of life,” the governor said.
The first COVID-19 vaccine was authorized by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, marking a major milestone in the region’s COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement comes after the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control granted their initial authorization to the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
The Western States Workgroup, comprised of vaccine experts from Washington, California, Oregon and Nevada, have been meeting to review the data and analysis to ensure the safety and efficacy of all vaccines federally authorized.
“This is a crucial moment. We’ve been waiting for months for this blessing. It marks a turning point in this disease,” Inslee said.
Chief Science Officer for Washington State Dr. Kathy Lofy said this news comes at a time when COVID-19 cases are higher than they’ve ever been in Washington.
“While it will take several months to get everyone vaccinated who will want the vaccine, we can now see light at the end of the tunnel,” Lofy said.
She said as of Sunday morning, there are 1,000 residents with COVID-19 in the hospitals. She said those hospitals are stressed and health care workers are exhausted.
Doctor Ed Marcuse–a member of the workgroup–praised the efficient work done by the FDA and CDC.
“I am now confident in the safety and efficacy of this Pfizer vaccine,” said Marcuse. “We have sufficient information to recommend its immediate use so we can begin to reduce the horrific toll of this pandemic.”
The first of the vaccine doses are expected to start arriving from the federal government Monday and will begin to be administered as soon as Tuesday. Inslee confirmed vaccinations will begin as soon as possible in health care and long-term care facilities and tribal governments across the state.
“This doesn’t mean we are out of the woods yet,” Inslee said. “We can’t let up on masking, physical distancing and restrictions on indoor activities. We need to continue to slow the rate of infection as we work to get Washingtonians vaccinated. We must keep up the fight a little longer and I know we will get through this, together.”
The first trucks carrying the COVID-19 vaccine authorized for widespread use in the United States pulled out of a Michigan manufacturing plant Sunday, drawing applause from bystanders.
Initially, about 3 million doses were expected to be sent out, and the priority is health care workers and nursing home residents as infections, hospitalizations and deaths soar in the U.S. With numbers likely to get worse over the holidays, the vaccine is offering a bright spot in the fight against the pandemic that’s killed nearly 300,000 Americans.
The CDC accepted an advisory committee’s recommendation of the vaccine Sunday, meaning the shots can now be officially administered in the United States.