CANTON, Ohio — Aultman Hospital in Canton is standing by to become one of the first sites in Ohio to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Chris Parrish, senior vice president of Aultman Healthcare Delivery System, expects 975 doses will be shipped to the hospital from Pfizer, which is requesting emergency use of it vaccine from the Food and Drug Administration.
Aultman is among 10 hospitals in eight regions that were picked as pre-positioning locations. Aultman is in Region 5. Two hospitals in Region 2, Cleveland Clinic and Metro Health Medical Center, are also on the list to receive the vaccine.
Once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices issues it recommendations— possibly in December-—the vaccine will be given to critical care workers who find themselves on the front lines of the surging coronavirus.
"We could be notified in a matter of hours or days as to when the pre-positioning distribution will happen," Parrish said.
Parrish believes one of the reasons Aultman was selected is due to its ultra-cold storage unit, which can hold 100,000 doses.
"Once they do distribute it, we could hold that vaccine here in our ultra-cold storage capacity for a matter of weeks while it goes through the process of the CDC.
Parrish said the hospital is identifying doctors, nurses and and other healthcare workers who would be eligible for the vaccine if they choose to get it.
"Because of their exposure to COVID, obviously we want them to at least have the option of the taking the vaccine when it does become available and as soon as possible."
Parrish said there's also a plan in place for the workers who get the first shot to also receive a booster dose about 2 1/2 weeks later.
"That booster is not part of the initial 970 plus that we will get. The state has identified a mechanism to get us that secondary distribution," he said.
Aultman, like many Ohio hospitals, has experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.
"Our available beds are critical right now. We are working feverishly to free up more available beds. Just like every hospital in the state of Ohio, we're struggling with capacity," Parrish said.
Even with encouraging vaccine news, hospital leaders across Northeast Ohio continue to urge people to not let their guard down by wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
"Definitely from a hospital standpoint, we are nowhere near out of the end of the tunnel with this," Parrish said.