Health district officials hope to vaccinate those in the first tier in January and the general public by spring, said district spokesperson Allison Balmes–John. She stressed that while researchers have been working on a COVID-19 vaccine only this year, the theory behind these types of vaccines is not new.
Similar vaccines, which help cells target a protein particular to a virus—and even remember how to attack it in the future—have been used for years.
“They weren’t starting from square one,” she said, “so that’s helpful to keep in mind as well.”
Likewise, Saitta’s team didn’t start working on plans for large-scale vaccinations this summer. Those began in 2002, when Saitta, then the health district’s bioterrorism coordinator, developed the groundwork for flu-shot clinics, both at mobile sites and fixed locations.
Officials will use the same plans, just as they’ve done while providing COVID-19 testing throughout the area. They hope to have up to three trailers full of supplies so that many teams can work at a location.
The health district used an earlier $5,000 grant from Mary Washington Healthcare to purchase needed supplies, such as cotton balls, Band-Aids, alcohol prep pads, gloves, gowns, masks and shields.
Federal funds went to each state, which distributed them to health districts for the purchase of upright freezers—one in each locality—to keep the vaccine at ultra-cold temperatures until it is ready for distribution. Federal money also was used to buy tents and propane heaters to provide workers warmth during the winter months when vaccine clinics will be held.