14 October 2021

There is a lot happening in the vaccine/infectious disease world as we move into our second winter in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are some highlights from the Vaccine Advisory Committee (VAC) meeting that took place on 10/14/2021.

Flu Vaccine
This fall, the Washington Department of Health (DOH) is working to educate patients and providers about the importance of the Flu Vaccine.

The primary messages for providers in the lead up to the 2021-2022 Flu season are:

  1. Mobility and socialization are returning, making the flu vaccine increasingly important this season.
  2. The Flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine can be given at the same time.
  3. Flu has not disappeared! It was suppressed in 2020-2021 because of other layers of protection during the Public Health Emergency.

The DOH has identified the following as Public Education and Awareness messages:

  1. Neither flu nor covid-19 are “gone” and both are a very real threat.
  2. The Flu vaccine does not protect you against COVID-19, and the COVID-19 vaccine does not protect you against the flu.
  3. Therefore, people need both vaccines to have protection against both diseases.

Rapid COVID-19 Home Testing
The DOH is working to increase access to testing. At this point, in-home testing kits are still hard to come by. The hope is that, by early winter, costs will be coming down and these tests will be more accessible. Because of healthcare shortages, resources are being put into ED/ICU/hospital care and it is unlikely that more testing sites will be created because there are not resources for it.

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution
Were in the 43 rd week of COVID-19 vaccine distribution. In that time, 400M global doses have been administered globally. Fewer than 5% of doses have been wasted. In Washington State, over 9 million doses have been administered and 71.4% of the total population in Washington is fully vaccinated at this time.

The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) will meet on 10/26/2021 to discuss Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) approval for 5-11 year olds for Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. WA DOH expects to have enough Pfizer vaccine for all of the 5-11 year old children in the state. Planning is based on 100% of families wanting to have their children vaccinated. DOH is working to get vaccine to areas of high social vulnerability.

COVID-19 Reminders
COVID-19 vaccines are not designed to prevent all COVID disease. They are designed to prevent severe disease and death. By these measures, the COVID-19 vaccines are working extremely well. It’s also extremely important to continue to wear masks and to maintain physical distance from others.

We have 3 big tools to keep fighting this pandemic: vaccination, masking, and distancing. All three need to be used in order to be successful.

Booster Recommendations
A Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster dose is recommended for certain individuals. From WA DOH:

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) will immediately begin offering booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to certain individuals following recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Advisory Committee on Immunizations Practices (ACIP),  and Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup.

At least six months after completing the primary Pfizer vaccine series, the following individuals should receive a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine:

  • People 65 years of age and older;
  • People 18 years of age and older living in a long-term care setting; and
  • People 50 – 64 years of age with underlying medical conditions or those at increased risk of social inequities.

Additionally, the following individuals who completed a Pfizer vaccine series at least six months ago may receive a Pfizer booster dose:

  • People who are 18 – 49 years of age with underlying medical conditions; and
  • People 18 – 64 years of age who are at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission due to their occupational or institutional setting.

VRBPAC Updates
This committee also met today and determined the following:

  • Available data support the safety and effectiveness of Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine for use under EUA as a booster dose (50 mcg mRNA-1273) at least 6 months after completion of a primary series in the following populations:
    • Individuals 65 years of age and older;
    • Individuals 18 through 64 years of age at high risk of severe COVID-19; and
    • Individuals 18 through 64 years of age whose frequent institutional or occupationalexposure to SARS-CoV-2 puts them at high risk of serious complications of COVID-19 including severe COVID-19.

~Mary Koehnke, ND - WANP Liaison to WA DOH VAC