Centra Receives First Shipment of Pfizer COVID Vaccine

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Centra Receives First Shipment of Pfizer COVID Vaccine

Tuesday, December 15, 2020


Centra received its first shipment of the Pfizer COVID vaccine at Lynchburg General Hospital. The shipment arrived via Fed Ex in a 16x16 inch box with no indication from the outside of the contents inside. The package was received by Tim Oswald, Operations Supervisor of Materials Management and Randall Puckett, Managing Director of Pharmacy.

The box was transported to Pharmacy where it will be housed in a special sub-zero refrigerator with a temperature display reading -70 degrees Celsius. Optimal temperature range is considered anywhere between -60 degrees to -80 degrees Celsius.

The shipping box was opened to reveal three containers measuring approximately 12x16 inches. These three boxes contain vaccines for 2925 people. Each vial, measuring 1.5 inches holds enough vaccine to cover 5 recipients.The three containers were packaged in dry ice and shipped with a GPS tracker and temperature-controlled monitor. The containers must be removed using Nitrogen-proof gloves due to the extreme temperature requirement.

For use, vials must be thawed and then diluted (reconstituted) with saline. Vials can be thawed in a regular refrigerator in three hours or 30 minutes at room temperature and remains viable in a regular refrigerator for five days. Undiluted, the vaccine is viable for two hours at room temperature. Once diluted, the vaccine can remain viable for up to six hours at room temperature.

Patients receive the vaccine in the arm in two doses. The second dose is administered 21 days after the first dose to increase efficacy. When receiving the vaccine, patients will be asked a serious of questions to determine if there are allergies or known health conditions such as pregnancy that may preclude them from receiving the vaccine. Patients who pass the screening process will then sign a consent form and receive a card listing the name of the vaccine manufacturer, the date of the first dose and the date of the follow up dose. Patients are monitored for 15-20 minutes after receiving the shot for any allergic reactions.

Common side effects, seen also with other vaccines, can include; fever, injection site pain, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, injection site swelling, injection site redness, nausea, feeling unwell, swollen lymph nodes.

The Pfizer vaccine has gone through a clinical trial of over 40,000 people starting in July of this year, with the data from this trial released to the FDA and the public over the last week. Centra’s COVID Clinical Taskforce, comprised of representatives from infectious disease, critical care, hospitalist, pathologist and emergency room physicians, as well as representatives from pharmacy and infection prevention, reviewed all the effectiveness and safety data that are currently known. The group unanimously endorsed providing the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to all levels of priority groups outlined by the CDC, which includes healthcare workers. The vaccine will not be mandatory for Centra caregivers but is strongly encouraged.

Currently, the CDC has chosen healthcare workers as the priority group to receive the vaccine in this first round in order to keep hospitals running as the disease continues in the community. The vaccine will likely not be available to the average community member until sometime further into 2021. As of now, vaccine administration will take place at Lynchburg General Hospital and Caregivers from other locations across the Centra footprint who qualify in the first round will travel to Lynchburg to receive the vaccine. Vaccinations will begin tomorrow and continue through the next few weeks. Centra expects further shipments of vaccine in the future, but numbers of vaccines received and priority populations to receive the vaccine will be determined by the state and the CDC. Currently, the vaccine clinic is not open to the public.

Pharmacy Managing Director Randall Puckett stated, “It is exciting to be part of this effort. This is one of the biggest efforts we’ve been involved in - to vaccinate the entire community over time. This is something we have never seen before. We are making history!”