Washington could get COVID-19 vaccines as early as Monday

Washington could get COVID-19 vaccines in the state as early as Monday or Tuesday after an advisory committee voted Thursday to endorse Pfizer’s version.

A group of scientists independent of the Food and Drug Administration voted 17-4 to recommend emergency authorization of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. The vote signaled scientists believe that based on the data, the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks in Americans ages 16 and older.

The FDA will likely follow the outside committee’s recommendation and could issue emergency use authorization as early as Friday. Once authorized, the federal government is set to ship out 2.9 million doses within the next 24 hours, including 62,000 doses to Washington state.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has enrolled the state in a Western states workgroup, which will independently review the vaccine for effectiveness and safety if approved by the FDA. The extra step should take 1-2 days and will happen while the vaccine is being processed and delivered to avoid any delay, according to the state Health Department.

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While there is no firm delivery date while the FDA considers authorization, a health department spokesman told Q13 News the state anticipates receiving vaccines as early as Dec. 14 or Dec. 15.

The first batch will go to frontline health care workers dealing directly with COVID-19 patients. If two vaccines are approved before the end of the year — the FDA is set to review Moderna next week — Washington could anticipate receiving more than 400,000 doses in December.

According to the state health department, that should be nearly enough to provide initial injections to the state’s first priority group of health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. UW Medicine announced Thursday they are ready to help staff, with a vaccine freezer available in each of its three campuses.

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“We’re in a really good position to make sure that everyone who meets those criteria will be offered vaccine within a month of the vaccine rollout,” said Dr. Shireesha Dhanireddy, director of Harborview Infectious Disease Clinic.

The state has not yet released prioritization orders for subsequent groups, but Dhanireddy said the final groups should anticipate vaccinations in mid-to-late 2021.