A Third COVID-19 Vaccine is Coming. Who’s First in Line?

Also featured: Canada stymies Rx plan, side-stepping the winter blues and more

Editor’s note: Welcome to The PostScript Rewind, a biweekly recap of the latest in healthcare news. Featuring what you need to know — none of what you don’t.

The holidays may be a bit brighter with a third major drug company’s report on a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

Last week, drug-maker AstraZeneca said late-stage trials showed its COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective — 90 percent in one of the regimens tested. Results are from trials in the UK and Brazil; the vaccine was developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca.

Unlike the others, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine does not need to be stored at such frigid temps, and it’s also cheaper.

Earlier, Pfizer and Moderna reported preliminary results showing their vaccines were almost 95-percent effective. All three vaccines must be approved by regulators.

More good news came on Dec. 2, when it was announced the UK formally approved Pfizer’s vaccine, becoming the first Western country to OK its use.

Great Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority approved the vaccine from Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech for emergency use.

Once a vaccine gets the green light in the U.S., who will be first in line for it? Based on a CDC panel recommendation, healthcare workers and nursing home residents top the list.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which met virtually Dec. 1, makes recommendations to the CDC, which are almost always accepted.

Vaccine rollout will begin once the FDA gives the OK; it’s currently reviewing Pfizer and Moderna data. The FDA advisory committee will meet Thursday, Dec. 10 to weigh emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s version in the US.

In related news:

• The US government is ramping up plans to distribute vaccines once available. In late November, 6.4-million doses were announced as available upon FDA approval.

• Meanwhile, drugstore chains are talking up their ability to offer the vaccines. Walgreens is the latest to promise access to vaccines in 9,000 of its US stores.

Beyond vaccines: COVID’s continued impact

The promise of a vaccine isn’t the only pandemic-related headline in the news:

• Florida surpassed the harrowing milestone of 1-million COVID-19 cases — the third state to do so.

• Hospitals brace for record-setting post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 surges, and many have already put the brakes on elective surgeries.

• The pandemic may worsen a trend of increased healthcare costs by employees, especially for those with middle incomes.

• While telehealth has been touted for bridging accessibility, new findings show it also may increase inequities for people with disabilities.

A cheaper Rx from up north? Not so fast

The US recently announced a plan to import prescription drugs from Canada, making them cheaper for Americans. But Canada is nixing the idea by banning exports of some medications, a move meant to prevent drug shortages in its own country.

Super-speedy by Phox

Software startup Phox aims to provide on-demand pharmacy delivery and get prescription meds to patients in two hours or less. It’s likely to focus on health systems and telehealth service providers as its core clients.

Rx tip of the week

It’s getting colder. And darker. And we’re all staying indoors more. If you’re feeling the “winter blues,” there are some things you can do. Be sure to get enough vitamin D, exercise regularly and try to get outdoors for some fresh air and sunshine.

—Eric Wu, ScriptHero clinical pharmacist

Did you know changing your pharmacy could save you money on your prescriptions?

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and not intended to be medical advice, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any healthcare questions, please seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call your physician or dial 911 immediately.

About the author

Victoria Ellwood is a writer and storyteller in central Ohio, where she writes about everything from academia, the arts and agriculture to healthcare, Shakespeare and small-town living. Her work’s been featured in Modern Farmer and magazines and websites for The Ohio State University College of Arts and Sciences, College of Nursing, Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, University Libraries, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council and Small Nation Strong.

This article was last updated December 10, 2020

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