The university will follow the guidance of the CDC and the District in allocating initial vaccine doses to high-risk health care workers and first responders.
Extensive preparations to receive and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine are underway, President Thomas LeBlanc told the Faculty Senate Friday afternoon, but any initial doses will be very limited and for most people it will be some time before they can be vaccinated.
“As with every development related to the pandemic, we are really fortunate to have the expertise of our world-class safety, medical, public health and nursing professionals as a part of our team, and we’ve consistently looked to them for advice as we determine how to operationalize our work in the pandemic, and in particular how we operationalize the receipt and distribution of any vaccine that does become available,” Dr. LeBlanc said.
On Friday evening, the FDA issued emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine. The Moderna vaccine, for which GW served as a clinical trial site, also is expected to receive emergency authorization this month.
According to GW’s experts, following the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the District, the initial doses D.C. receives will be allocated to high-risk health care workers and first responders, Dr. LeBlanc said.
The GW Medical Faculty Associates and School of Medicine and Health Sciences are working with the GW Hospital to plan for distribution of these limited doses, based on principles of risk, equity and transparency, as early as next week with the first delivery of the vaccine.
Later in this first phase, likely in February 2021, D.C. will have doses to provide to people with severe underlying health risks and older adults who live in crowded or congregate settings. The MFA is developing protocols for vaccine distribution to patients during this period.
In spring 2021, a number of other people could be prioritized for vaccine, including K-12 teachers and child care workers, critical workers in high-risk settings, people with moderate health risks, and all other older adults, among others. This phase may extend through the summer because of the limited supply of vaccines.
In the third phase, hopefully no later than fall 2021, many additional people would be able to get vaccinated, including young adults, children and staff members “at increased risk of exposure.” The university already is actively planning logistics for general vaccine distribution, and Dr. LeBlanc cautioned that the timeline outlined is subject to change.
In the meantime, and even after vaccination begins, the public health practices like wearing a mask, distancing, limiting travel and getting a flu shot are critical.
“I know that this has been a long road in 2020, but all the experts are telling us we need to continue to be vigilant this winter,” Dr. LeBlanc said.
Also Friday, professors Joe Cordes and Susan Kulp, co-chairs of the Faculty Senate’s Fiscal Planning and Budgeting Committee, presented the committee’s annual report.
Dr. Kulp reviewed fiscal 2020, noting the pandemic’s initial impact on finances, particularly revenue losses associated with the Medical Faculty Associates and loss of housing and other auxiliary revenue when the university transitioned to virtual learning in the spring.
Dr. Cordes provided an overview of the recent A1 rating and stable outlook from Moody’s, reviewing the strengths and challenges noted in the Moody’s assessment.
“Our financial situation is very sound, very solid,” Dr. Cordes said.
In terms of the current fiscal year, Dr. Cordes said, loss of tuition and housing revenue impacted GW’s financial situation, and the university took several actions to offset the projected $180 million revenue shortfall as a result of the pandemic for fiscal 2021. Looking to the future, Dr. Cordes said there are too many pandemic-driven uncertainties that could affect enrollment and housing revenue to present a hypothetical university budget.
Both Dr. LeBlanc and Provost M. Brian Blake said they are grateful to the faculty, particularly for continuing their high-quality instruction and the additional support they are providing students.
“I just wanted to make sure that doesn’t go unrecognized, so thank you so much for that,” Dr. Blake said, adding he is optimistic about the future. “I’m looking forward to a much better 2021.”
Dr. LeBlanc echoed that sentiment.
“We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is a great university with a great future. 2021 is going to be a better year. I’m really looking forward to it, and I’m sure many of you are,” he said. “Working together, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish, and our bicentennial year is a great year to do it.”