The news that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is showing to be 90% effective in preventing infection has been met with excitement from health care systems across North Texas.
“Super exciting. It’s the news we’ve been wait for,” Parkland Health and Hospital System Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Chang said. “For us in health care, it’s an extremely exciting idea. This is the thing that, if it works, will bring us back to normal and we quite honestly can’t wait for one of these to pan out.”
Chang said Parkland has been working for months on plans to distribute a vaccine when one was finally made available.
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“From a distribution standpoint, it’s going to be quite a logistical nightmare,” Chang said. “Quite honestly, this will be the first time that we will try to give a vaccine to just about everybody.”
One of the biggest challenges facing health care systems is the correlation of storage and distribution.
“These new vaccines that are being talked about – all the candidates that are further [along in development] require ultracold conditions for storage and they cannot be out of ultracold storage for very long before they go bad,” Chang said.
These specialized refrigeration units are not at all satellite locations.
“We have them in big bulk here on central campus and we would have to come up with a way to get them to our distribution sites quickly, efficiently and deliver them to the patients before they go bad,” Chang said. “The minute they come out, they are on the clock.”
Chang reminds that initial supplies will be limited.
“We are going to have to deal with this idea of prioritization. Who is going to get it first? Who should get it first? Some of that is going to be decided by the federal government,” Chang said. “For now, in the beginning, it’s going to be rather limited to likely healthcare workers at the very beginning. Because healthcare workers are frontline and need to be able to take care of people, but then targeting more at-risk populations – the immunocompromised, the elder, diabetes. Those sorts of things will come with the next line.”
CVS Health announced its pharmacies would “join others in offering Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved COVID-19 vaccinations when available to the general public.”
CVS confirms it is expanding cold storage and related facilities.
“While there are going to be different storage and handling requirements, we are ensuring that we have those capabilities in our stores,” CVS said in a statement.