CLEVELAND — The Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use means healthcare systems across the country are now gearing up for their first doses.
“This is the moment we've been waiting for,” Daniel Culver, chair of the department of pulmonary medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, said.
Cleveland Clinic Main Campus is one of ten propositioned hospital sites in Ohio along with MetroHealth and Aultman Hospital in Stark County that will get a portion of the 9,750 doses designated for healthcare workers.
Those sites were chosen based on location, population, and their ability to keep the vaccine at subzero temperatures.
“Our system and the number of ultra cold freezers we have allowed for good confidence that we could distribute those things correctly,” Culver said.
Culver said they’re not exactly sure when they’ll get that special delivery, but he’s hopeful they can start vaccinating employees by the end of the week. They will determine who gets vaccinated first depending on level of risk.
“Who's working the most with the COVID patients, risk factors, and also which health care providers are most indispensable to the health care system,” Culver said.
University Hospitals is implementing a similar approach.
“We really went and took a look to see which of our employees are most at risk based on where they work. And those are the employees who will get the vaccine first,” Dr. Robyn Strosaker, COO of University Hospitals, said.
The Ohio Department of Health said other sites will receive shipments of the vaccine potentially just days after the propositioned hospitals begin administering it.
Strosaker said she’s not yet sure when that will be, but with three times more COVID patients at their facilities now than in the spring, she and her staff are ready for it whenever it comes.
“Our employees are tired because they've been at this for about nine months and we really are seeing the worst of it right now,” Strosaker said.
The Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center is also preparing for its first shipment.
It was chosen as one of 37 VA locations across the country to receive initial doses of the vaccine because of its ability to vaccinate large numbers of people and store it at ultra cold temperatures.
“Our veterans, as you said they’re in that high risk group, it's been challenging for those of us that have been taking care of them as well. So we're happy that this is going to be part of the solution to hopefully get us through the pandemic,” Brett Carroll, COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Coordinator at the VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System, said.
The Ohio Department of Health has released guidance about how the initial vaccine roll out will occur:
The federal government has advised that the Ohio Department of Health will not know the exact number of vaccines that will be shipped to Ohio until closer to each shipment date. The current shipment figures, which are subject to change, are as follows:
- On or around Dec. 15, a shipment from Pfizer will include 9,750 vaccines for Ohio's prepositioned hospital sites. An additional 88,725 vaccines will go to Walgreens and CVS for congregate care settings.
- On or around Dec. 22, a shipment of 201,000 vaccines is expected from Moderna. These vaccines will go to 98 hospitals for vaccination of those who are exposed to COVID patients and to 108 health departments to vaccinate other frontline workers such as those working in emergency medical services.
- On or around Dec. 22, another shipment is also expected from Pfizer. The tentative number of vaccines in this shipment is 123,000. These vaccines will go to Walgreens and CVS for vaccination of those in congregate care settings.
- A few days later, Ohio expects another 148,000 vaccines from Pfizer and 89,000 vaccines from Moderna.
These vaccines will be the first dose for those in the identified critical groups. A second dose will be delivered and administered in the future. It has not been determined when members of the general public will have the option to receive vaccines. As information becomes available about the next phases of vaccine distribution, it will be made public.
More information about Ohio’s COVID-19 vaccination program can be found here.
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