• The Star Staff

Health Dept. expects 340,000 COVID-19 vaccines by the end of December

Agency’s deputy secretary announces vaccination process to begin 48 hours after FDA issues emergency use authorization

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

Deputy Health Secretary Iris Cardona Gerena told the Star on Tuesday that by the end of December the Puerto Rico Health Department expects to receive 340,000 coronavirus vaccines.

“An additional 30,000 doses will be from Pfizer, but expectations are that, by December 20, we will begin to receive vaccines from Moderna,” Cardona Gerena said. “We hope this number keeps rising [in] January.”

As for when inoculations will begin, the deputy secretary told the Star that the Health Department expects to begin 48 hours after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issues an emergency use authorization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices submits their specific recommendations, which she added might take place around Dec. 10 to Dec. 15.

“We know that we will have enough vaccines for the population because its distribution will depend on the population from the U.S. state or territory. What will determine it is how quick the vaccines are produced,” Cardona Gerena said. “There will be vaccines for every person who has to be vaccinated, but it is an orderly process guided by a framework that considers science, where the vaccine works, logistics, how it will be delivered, and ethics, which mainly focus on who we must vaccinate first, who is more exposed [to the coronavirus] and, if they were to become ill, who will face more complications.”

“This does not mean that we will begin vaccination on Dec. 15 and it will take until next May; this is an orderly process that will depend on how fast vaccines arrive,” she added.

In the first inoculation phase, Cardona Gerena said the Health Department will start vaccinating “those who work in hospitals, but including everyone else in an orderly process, and all residents of long-term care facilities, all people in [group] settings, and all those patients who, because of age or medical condition, are at risk for complications.”

“All of this is included in the first vaccination phase; what happens is that we structured it in different parts, hospitals, health care centers, medical offices, pharmacies, among others,” she said. “Then we would conduct activities aimed at the large group of workers that society would not run without, which includes first responders, firefighters, police, emergency management officers, medical emergency workers, but also includes those who provide basic services such as water, electricity, communications, food service, education, government agencies, essential agencies, federal agencies.”

As for the vaccine’s safety, Cardona said “the vaccines that we expect to be authorized for use in the coming days have clinical research studies with more than 73,000 patients that demonstrate a good safety profile, where the only side effects that were seen and were statistically significant were headaches and some fatigue after inoculation.”

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