A newly formed preplanning group from the Suquamish Tribe’s Emergency Operations Center gathered online this week to begin early preparations for vaccination distribution to Tribal members and staff in the coming months.
Dubbed the COVID-19 Vaccine Planning Subcommittee, the task group consists of Suquamish Tribe Acting Co-Director Jamie Gooby, EOC Manager Cherrie May, Community Health Nurse Barbara Hoffman, Tribal Attorney Melody Allen, Marion Forsman-Boushie Early Learning Center School Nurse Renee Hommel, EOC Public Information Officer Jon Anderson, and Emergency Management Consultant Eric Quitslund.
The first meeting of the planning group focused on reviewing the Tribe’s Pandemic Response Plan, getting an overview of medical countermeasures, and beginning the work of assessing vaccination priority groups.
“At this point, there are still a lot of unknowns in terms when the first vaccine will be approved, when – and in what quantities – it will be available, and how it will need to be controlled and administered,” said May. “So, this first meeting was really centered on what kind of questions we need to be asking and what potential scenarios we need to be thinking through.”
Also of paramount concern is vaccine safety.
“We will be listening to and consulting with the medical and scientific experts we know and trust,” said Gooby. “That will play a big role in which vaccine Tribal Council ultimately opts to make available and when Tribal government decides to deploy it.”
Currently, there are 11 vaccines now in the final “Phase 3” level of testing, including four underway in the United States. Phase 3 testing for each potential vaccine involves some 30,000 volunteers, who take either the candidate vaccine or a placebo, across dozens of sites around the country.
Vaccines work by training your body’s natural defenses to recognize and fight off viruses. “If the body is exposed to those disease-causing germs later, the body is immediately ready to destroy them, preventing illness,” according to the World Health Organization.
New rules from the Food and Drug Administration issued on Oct. 6, suggest the earliest the first COVID-19 vaccine might be approved for emergency use is mid to late November, with large-scale availability ramping up over several months after approval.