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State plans ‘sprint’ to push out COVID vaccinations

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Delaware used close to 40,000 come Thursday morning, and health officials believe the infrastructure is in place to continue mass roll out. | PHOTO COURTESY DPH

Delaware is three weeks into its statewide vaccination plan, but rollout has been slow in its early weeks,  but state health officials said that the infrastructure is falling into place to start rapid mass vaccinations.

The state has used close to 40,000 of its 75,000 doses as of Jan. 14, according to the Delaware Division of Public Health’s vaccine tracker. Delaware health officials expect that number to skyrocket with a “sprint to vaccinate Phase 1A,” or health care personnel, emergency medical service agencies and long-term care staff and residents.

DPH plans to start Phase 1B, which includes those who are 65 and older and frontline essential workers, by the end of January. No specific date has been set as of press time Jan. 14.

“It is very important that we escalate our vaccine efforts to get the vaccine to the population as quickly as possible. We’re all eager to move on,” Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said Jan. 12.

There were earlier concerns about the slow rollout as 2020 ended, but Rattay pointed to building infrastructure and under-reported numbers, further complicated by the holiday season. During Gov. John Carney’s weekly press conference, Rattay confirmed that there were delays in data reporting, and said that it is likely that more than 10,000 additional people have received the vaccine than were represented on the state’s tracker portal.

In terms of infrastructure, Delaware health officials are expanding options to include drive-thru vaccination events. In the first week of January, the DPH was able to vaccinate 650 people, including first responders who have medical duties, school nurses and home-help personnel, at a drive-thru event at the Georgetown DMV.

For future events, DPH will be reaching out directly to home health, dialysis centers and health care personnel serving people with intellectual disabilities. Future clinics are targeted for weekends, in hopes of reaching more people, Rattay said.

Several pharmacies will also start administering the vaccine to people in Phase 1A. Six Rite Aid stores and Camden Pharmacy locations started vaccinations in the week of Jan. 14, and a total of 60 Walgreens and Giant stores the week after. By Jan. 25, 11 Acme, SaveOn and Safeway stores will begin vaccinations and CVS and Walmart are reportedly looking to join as well.

“Our infrastructure to be able to vaccinate is expanding,” Rattay said. “Of course their focus is going to be 1A right now. But as you can see, this is preparing us well to move into 1B with all of these pieces. So there are a lot of options and opportunities for people to get vaccinated.”

DPH is also working quickly to identify and help enroll medical offices that are willing to vaccinate older Delawareans when it becomes available. At this point, there are about 200 health care providers enrolled with state health officials to administer shots, and that includes hospitals, qualified health centers, medical offices, dentists and even veterinarians.

Any health care practices in Phase 1A that do not have a vaccination plan in place should contact [email protected] Questions about the vaccine can be directed to the Vaccine Call Center at 1-833-643-1715 or emailed to [email protected].

The majority of the general public should not expect to get vaccinated before late spring or early summer.

“I know there’s a tremendous amount of eagerness and anxiety about where people will find their vaccine. When it is their time and we promise we will be releasing information to you as soon as we are able,” Rattay said.

By Katie Tabeling

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