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UC Health releases vaccine distribution plan for first batch

Updated: Dec. 9, 2020 at 7:00 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - The University of Cincinnati Health is one of 10 pre-positioned hospitals across Ohio, and the only one in the southwestern part of the state, that will be first in line to get the state’s initial batch of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, following FDA approval.

The hospital has been working for the past several weeks on its plan for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Who will get it first?

Ohio is allocating 9,750 doses in the first batch for hospitals. Dustin Calhoun, Medical Director for Emergency Management at UC Health, says mid next week, after the FDA approves, Pfizer will send about 975 doses directly to UC Medical Center.

“Obviously that’s a pretty small number when we have 12,000 employees at UC Health,” said Calhoun.

Per the CDC and state guidance, the hospital will vaccinate workers with direct contact first. However, they also plan to vaccinate people who can keep the hospitals up and running.

“It has to be a broader group of people, including doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, public safety, environmental services, food and nutrition, all these people who come together to make healthcare work,” said Calhoun.

Once the vaccine arrives at the hospital, Calhoun says the first injections would be given within 24 hours.

“We are looking to spread it out over a four to five-day window,” said Calhoun. “Could we put out 975 doses in a 24 hour period? Absolutely. But there are people in that 975 doses who might not be able to receive it on that day.”

Preventing Waste

The Pfizer vaccine, which must be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius, will be stored in ultra-cold freezers UC Health already has. Calhoun says there are protocols in place, ranging from giving the vaccine to workers in a timely fashion to keeping it cold.

Last week, Gov. Mike DeWine toured the secret Receipt, Store and Stage warehouse that will receive many of Pfizer’s vaccine doses. ODH staff and Ohio National Guard members are practicing the repackaging step daily to make sure there is no human error when the vaccine arrives.

DeWine said if the vials are in the open for more than two minutes, they could go bad.

“These are precious,” said DeWine. “We want to use them quickly, but correctly. We will be transparent if something happens and will certainly report it.”

“Waste is not an option,” said Calhoun. “Not a single drop of this will get wasted.”

Second shipment

Calhoun says UC Health doesn’t have firm details about what the weeks ahead could look like, but he says they expect a steady stream after the initial batch.

He anticipates the week after the initial Pfizer dose is sent, Moderna will send a shipment. The quantity is unknown.

Three weeks after the first batch is sent, Pfizer will send the essential booster dose.

Gov. DeWine said Friday that the state expects 201,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine and 123,000 more of Pfizer’s around Dec. 22. Then days later, he expects another 148,000 Pfizer doses and 89,000 Moderna doses.

How do healthcare workers feel?

It’s mixed, Calhoun says. Workers are excited that it is here, however, he says there is anxiety about the uncertainty. That includes the number of doses that will be available, public acceptance, and if this will cause people to start letting their guard down.

Calhoun hopes this is the light at the end of the tunnel, but he worries it will become an excuse to return to normal life.

“If people see that light as being too bright or the tunnel being too short, we are afraid they will let their guard down,” said Calhoun. “We have a long way to go before we can start being less worried about social distancing and mask-wearing. The vaccine is eventually the answer, and we are starting that now. But it is not a light switch.”

What’s next?

The FDA will hold emergency authorization hearings for Pfizer’s vaccine Thursday, with Moderna’s on Dec. 17. Both Moderna and Pfizer claim their vaccine was 90% effective in clinical trials.

Government officials say the vaccine should be available for any American who wants it by spring.

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