When the U.S. ended its COVID-19 public health emergency May 11, it changed the way hospitals are supplied with vaccine doses, said Jodie Gaffey, CGH director of primary care.
Although the state and county health department previously provided vaccines, CGH now must order doses through a wholesale distributor, she said.
Or at least they’re trying to order them.
CGH’s order of 50 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine currently is on backorder, Gaffey said.
“It could be two weeks, it could be two months [until we get the doses],” she said. “We’re hoping it’s going to be soon, but we really have no idea.”
Distributors are trying to gauge the demand for vaccines, and it’s likely going to end up as a supply and demand situation when it comes to who gets the doses, Gaffey said.
Even CGH is trying to gauge demand within its own service area in order to figure out how much to order, she said.
“Once we can get these, we’re prepared to give them … [but] we haven’t had a lot of interest,” Gaffey said. “If the demand is there, we’re definitely going to keep ordering and giving them.”
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, providers couldn’t get the vaccines out to people quickly enough, but that no longer is the case, Gaffey said.
“At the end [of the pandemic], too, people didn’t want it,” she said. “It was almost like you couldn’t give it away at that point.”
It could be two weeks, it could be two months [until we get the doses]. We’re hoping it’s going to be soon, but we really have no idea.”— CGH Medical Center Director of Primary Care Jodie Gaffey
That also makes deciding how much to order somewhat of a challenge because the Pfizer vaccines only are good for six weeks after delivery, Gaffey said. Moderna vaccines only last 30 days.
“We want to make sure we can use what we order,” she said. “We’ve had quite a few patients getting [vaccines] elsewhere because it is more available at the pharmacies.”
Pharmacies such as Walgreens, Walmart and CVS are able to work with larger distributors than CGH is, and they also sometimes work directly with the manufacturer, Gaffey said.
It also helps that they’re nationwide chains, she said.
Once CGH receives its doses of the vaccine, it will post on social media to let people know it’s available, Gaffey said.
CGH will host COVID-19 vaccination clinics along with its flu vaccination clinics, she said.
Gaffey encouraged people to not wait for CGH to get the vaccine if they don’t have to, especially if they face a high risk of complications from COVID-19.
“I am curious to see what this looks like and the demand,” Gaffey said. “I do hope people are willing to get vaccinated and protect others, especially the ones at risk.”
What’s new with COVID-19 vaccines?
Federal regulators approved an updated COVID-19 vaccine formula in September.
The formula was developed to protect against the Kraken strain of COVID-19, XBB. 1.5, that emerged in the winter. It’s also expected to work well against current other variants that are circulating.
It’s a monovalent formula, which is a change from the previous bivalent vaccine, Gaffey said. Such formula changes are expected, as viruses evolve and mutate over time, she said.
“Even through COVID, the vaccines did change based on what was out there,” Gaffey said.
She also pointed out that people are welcome and encouraged to get their flu shots at the same time they get their COVID-19 vaccines.
“That’s also an option at those off-site pharmacies,” Gaffey said. “You don’t have to do that, but it certainly is an option.”
The Daily Herald contributed to this story.