Dept. of Defense instructs states to prepare logistics for mass vaccination against COVID-19
By The Star Staff
Puerto Rico National Guard Adj. Gen. José Reyes said Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Defense has instructed all U.S. states and territories, such as Puerto Rico, to prepare the logistics for a mass vaccination against COVID-19.
Reyes also expressed confidence that the vaccines will be safe.
President Trump has said in media reports that he hopes to have a vaccine ready by November. Reports on Tuesday noted that drug giant AstraZeneca has paused global trials of its coronavirus vaccine because of an unexplained illness in one of the volunteers.
“I have read remarks from people stating that they are not going to get vaccinated because it is Trump’s vaccine. But I assure you that federal officials have very strict procedures and are meticulous when it comes to vaccines,” Reyes said. “This is an alternative for fighting COVID 19 and it will be safe.”
Earlier Tuesday, AstraZeneca joined eight other companies in signing a pledge promising they would not seek premature government approval for any coronavirus vaccine. They promised they would wait until they had adequate data showing any potential vaccine worked safely. There are two other vaccines being tested in the United States.
Currently, there are two COVID-19 vaccines approved for early use in China and one in Russia. They were endorsed without having completed a third phase of clinical trials, which has generated criticism at the international level. In the third phase of clinical trials, the vaccine is tested in hundreds of thousands of people in various localities, according to the New York Times.
Meanwhile, Reyes said Puerto Rico has to be prepared for when the COVID-19 vaccine is ready. Last week the 54 National Guard adjutant generals received communication from the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services to prepare protocols for vaccination.
Reyes said that based on what the federal government did in 2009 with the H1N1 pandemic, he expects there will be a vaccination order. First, people working in hospitals and other medical staff will be vaccinated, followed by emergency medical personnel and other first responders, including the military, then individuals at risk such as the elderly, followed by the rest of the population.
He said that in the case of Puerto Rico, the plan contemplates supplying vaccines to pharmacies, clinics and hospitals. Similarly, eight distribution centers will be established from where vaccines will be dispatched to all municipalities to carry out immunization campaigns within their communities.
“The plan is being developed because it involves several components for management [and] distribution, which includes hospitals, homes for the elderly, vaccination centers, [and] pharmacies that are already used for vaccines such as flu [influenza],” Reyes said.
Health Secretary Lorenzo González Feliciano said at a press conference that Deputy Health Secretary Iris Cardona has already been working on the protocol.
“We will be working on the demographics -- who the vaccines should reach first,” he said.
Reyes, like González, did not know whether the vaccine will be ready by November as Trump said, but noted that the logistics must be ready.