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Planning for Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccines

December 14, 2020

To: The Caltech Community
From: David A. Tirrell, Provost and Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President
Date: December 14, 2020
Re: Planning for Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccines 

With the Food and Drug Administration's recent approval of Emergency Use Authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, it appears that distribution of vaccines in the United States, including to the greater Los Angeles community, will begin this week. To assist in planning for this next stage of our pandemic response, we constituted a campus committee to examine broadly the issues involved in vaccine distribution and management. The committee, led by Deputy General Counsel Steve Atlee, has been considering the processes that determine access to vaccines, likely timelines for vaccine distribution, processes for administering vaccines to members of our community, programs for educating our community about the importance of vaccination, coordination with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and opportunities for the Institute to serve as a resource for city, county, and state planning efforts.

The members of the committee are:

  • Steve Atlee (chair), Deputy General Counsel
  • Shayna Chabner, Chief Communications Officer
  • Catherine Christensen, Emergency Preparedness and Business Continuity Manager
  • Ryan Eskin, Associate General Counsel
  • Jennifer Howes, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Wellness
  • Ken Hargreaves, External Relations Officer
  • Sarah Portwood, Director of Benefits and Compensation, Human Resources
  • Steve Mayo, Bren Professor of Biology and Chemistry

Since this summer, Caltech has been in conversation with officials from the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health (LADPH) and the Pasadena Public Health Department (PPHD) on their vaccine distribution and management plans, working to understand expected availability of the vaccine for our community as well as opportunities for Caltech to serve as a resource in the logistical management of the broader community inoculation efforts. One area in which we see an opportunity for immediate support is in making ultralow temperature freezer space and storage units available to local health agencies.

The vaccines are anticipated to be rolled out in phases, with health care professionals, individuals in long-term care facilities, elderly populations, and first-responders expected to be offered the initial doses. While we do not yet know when vaccines will be available to the Caltech community, our expectation is that institutes of higher education will be eligible to receive their first doses for administering to their community members in the spring of 2021. We will be working with local authorities to position the Institute and our community members as effectively as we can. Updates and information on this evolving situation will be provided as they become available by email and through the Caltech Together website.

In the meantime, we encourage members of the community to continue to educate themselves by participating in events such as the Institute's new Conversations on COVID-19 webinar series, which will begin with Professor Richard C. Flagan on Wednesday, December 16 discussing the effectiveness of masks in reducing disease transmission, and Professor Pamela Bjorkman on Monday, January 11 in a conversation about vaccines.