Preparing for A COVID-19 Vaccine

November 12, 2020

As our nation, our region and our health system prepare for the arrival of the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines, Henry Ford Health System is committed to transparency and ongoing education. We pledge to keep you informed as major developments happen.

Your Top 10 Questions Answered

What’s happening with COVID-19 vaccines right now?

As you’ve likely seen from recent news reports, several companies are completing large clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines. Approved vaccines could be available before the end of 2020. Since initial supplies will be limited, health systems like ours need to have plans in place for allocation, storage and distribution. We’ve been carefully developing plans in accordance with guidelines from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state agencies.

How did vaccines get approved so quickly?

It comes down to when production begins. Normally, production starts after a pharmaceutical company completes the development stage, which includes rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness, and a series of reviews and approvals by the FDA and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) amongst others. In the case of COVID-19 vaccines, the federal government invested taxpayer dollars to encourage pharmaceutical companies to start production before the development stage completed. The vaccines are still going through the same rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness, review and approval process.

When is a vaccine coming and how much supply will Henry Ford get?

Vaccine allocations are decided by federal and state agencies. We don’t know exactly when we’ll get our first allocation or how much we’ll receive, but we do know initial supplies will be very limited as companies need to supply multiple hospitals, health systems and other organizations who will be tasked in this vaccination effort. We will need to be agile as things will develop and change quickly. We are in regular contact with those agencies and will be ready as the situation unfolds.

What is the COVID-19 vaccine and how will it be given?

Not all COVID-19 vaccine candidates are the same. Pfizer is likely to be the first to be distributed and requires ultra-cold storage. Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines utilize a new technology, known as mRNA, which introduces a genetic code the body can use to make its own viral protein to induce an immune response to fight off the coronavirus. Recipients need to receive two shots spaced several weeks apart for full protection.

Can we be sure the vaccine will be safe? Will it be safe for me?

We understand that there may be concern over the safety and efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine. We have closely examined the FDA’s process for overseeing the many different vaccine trials. The FDA is required to make decisions that are guided by science and data regarding authorization or approval of COVID-19 vaccines. We have confidence in the FDA’s approval process and are committed to safety, quality and high reliability. You cannot develop COVID-19 from this vaccine.

Who will be first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

Henry Ford has developed our plans in accordance with the FDA, National Academy of Science, the CDC and state guidelines and are committed to achieving equity and protecting our most vulnerable. As those guidelines reflect, and for the safety and wellbeing of the communities we serve, we will be prioritizing our frontline team members for receiving the vaccine.

How will you determine which team members get vaccinated?

We have taken into account multiple factors including team members’ risk for potential exposure both at work but also in their communities. Additionally, we will evaluate other individual risk factors they may have that put them at more serious risk for COVID-19 complications. Because initial supplies will be limited, we will prioritize those team members first and expand our vaccination efforts as supplies increase, which is expected to be in the weeks following our initial distribution.

When can patients and the general public expect to receive the vaccine, and will I have to pay for it?

You won’t be charged for the vaccine. It will be covered like your normal flu vaccination. Because initial supplies are limited, the FDA, CDC and state agencies are encouraging hospitals and health systems to prioritize frontline team members until supplies increase, followed by our region’s most vulnerable patients like those at skilled nursing facilities and those with certain high-risk health conditions. The general public would then have the ability to be vaccinated as supplies allow. While there will be limited amount of vaccines in the remaining months of 2020, production and distribution is expected to ramp up next year. For instance, Pfizer is producing globally up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

What if I’ve tested positive for COVID-19 in the past – do I still need the vaccine?

We are still gathering data on how long you are protected from antibodies if you had COVID-19 previously. At this time, if you have already tested positive for COVID-19 or had COVID-19, you do not need to get the vaccine.

Did Henry Ford participate in clinical trials for the vaccine we’ll receive?

It’s difficult to predict which vaccine will arrive first but we believe Pfizer will be the first to arrive. We did not participate in the Pfizer trial. We are participating in two other promising Phase 3 vaccine trials including Moderna mRNA Vaccine Cove Study and the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson’s ENSEMBLE trial.

Get the latest information about Henry Ford’s coronavirus response and health and wellness advice to help you cope during this pandemic.