Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Everyone is asking is when can they get the COVID-19 vaccine, and what's so taking so long?

Even Governor Carney was wondering.

"That was exactly my question over the last several days with respect to our folks in public health and our partners," he said.

Delaware has 53,650 doses of vaccine. But according to the state's vaccine tracker, just over 18,000 doses have been used. 

Vaccine tracker data 01721

The number of people vaccinated in Delaware as of 1 p.m. on January 7, 2021.

Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health, said the vaccine tracker is showing a conservative estimate, one she expects to rise significantly by next week.

"We do know that our vaccination numbers are probably a bit higher than what you see," she said. "We know that there's some underreporting, and some reporting issues as well, and so, we are working with our partners to identify any bottlenecks to resolve that."

She cited challenging logistics due to the vaccine's arrival during the holiday season as one of the reasons the process is moving so slowly.

"Logistics are more complicated over the holidays, there's some hesitancy from staff over the holidays to take vaccine, but we really are very confident...that the acceleration of vaccination is going to increase significantly over the coming weeks."

Dr. Rattay

In 2018, ChristianaCare provided 8,000 flu vaccinations to its staff in a single day. But administering the COVID-19 vaccine, officials say is more challenging.

"Getting everybody in sync...timing-wise, data collection-wise, we want to make sure we collect all the appropriate data," said the governor. 

"The amount of vaccine that we want to get out there and the speed that we want it out there is different than anything that we've ever done before, and so the normal channels are critically important, that normal infrastructure is very important, but other partners are stepping up."

Rattay said dentists and veterinarians have signed up to provide immunizations.

But she insisted there's a plan for all remaining doses in Delaware's possession, and none will go to waste.

"Over 11,000 of those doses are second doses, so they're not ready for use yet so they do show up in our numbers," she said. "We have over 10,000 doses in our warehouse that are going to be used for these mass vaccination events, of which we have a number, that we're getting up and running. Half of that amount will be used in the next seven days with those events."

Rattay said between 14,000 and 15,000 doses are with health partners vaccinating front-line workers and other staff as well.

The remainder of vaccine is allocated to newly enrolled providers, who are "ready, willing, and eager" to vaccinate their patients.

"We have a plan, and we are executing that plan, and we're really confident that we are going to get this vaccine out into the arms of people very quickly," she said.

Delaware continues to be in Phase 1a of vaccinations, which includes healthcare workers, first responders, and long-term care residents and staff. Phase 1b will open up vaccinations to anyone over the age of 65 as well as a number of other workers declared "essential" during the pandemic, including, but not limited to educators and grocery store workers. Rattay estimated Phase 1b would begin sometime in the middle or end of January. 

The state's Health and Medical Ethics Advisory Group meets Monday, January 11, 2021 to give an update on the Phase 1a and 1b vaccinations process and discuss who may fall under the third phase, Phase 1c. The group often follows recommendations from the CDC's Advisory on Immunization Practices (ACIP), but has made some changes in the past. For example, in Phase 1b, ACIP recommended vaccinations go to persons age 75 and older, but Delaware's COVID-19 death data showed a need to vaccinate those 65 and older to prevent inequities. 

In Delaware, those 65 and older can expect to get vaccinated at their primary care doctor's office, pharmacies or other clinics. They'll need to show identification with their birthdate in order to be eligible. A voucher system will be used for some essential workers that fall into certain employment groups.

"We will need to work with partners best positioned to attest to eligibility based on phased groups (e.g., employers for essential businesses, primary care providers or pharmacists for chronic medical conditions). Although employee ID may show place of employment, we would need employers to specify which employees are deemed higher risk based on job function," said DPH spokeswoman Jennifer Brestel. 

The general public should not expect to get vaccinated before late spring or early summer. 

Meantime, amid chaos in the Capitol, hospitalizations tied to COVID-19 set a new record in Delaware Wednesday at 458.