Local COVID vaccine site prepares for imminent first delivery

First shipments from Pfizer leave Michigan plant Sunday; Springfield Regional Medical Center among first Ohio locations for vaccine.

The first shipments of a COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use in the United States headed Sunday from Michigan to distribution centers across the country, with the first shots expected to be given in the coming week to health care workers and at nursing homes.

This includes Mercy Health – Springfield Regional Medical Center, which is one of 10 staging sites in Ohio getting the initial Pfizer distribution.

“We’re preparing for when we actually do receive our vaccine locally, we don’t know exactly when that’s going to happen,” said Springfield Chief Operating Officer Chris Howe, speaking Sunday afternoon.

Howe said they are thinking the initial shipment will arrive potentially Monday or Tuesday.

“At that point, there’s a lot of work to be done,” Howe said.

He said they are ready to begin vaccinations once they receive the vaccines, starting internally with clinical staff and those most involved in COVID-19 patient care.

Springfield Regional President Adam Groshans said they don’t know exactly how much they are going to receive in their first shipment, and they are planning their strategy based on getting the minimal allotment. The doses arrive in boxes of about 975 and they could potentially start out with that much minimally.

Shipments of the Pfizer vaccine will set in motion the biggest vaccination effort in American history at a critical juncture of the pandemic that has killed 1.6 million and sickened 71 million worldwide.

Just Sunday, Ohio Department of Health reported 9,266 new cases of COVID-19. Hospitalizations increased by 170 and deaths increased by 15, bringing hospitalizations to 31,973 and deaths to 7,492.

Initially, about 3 million doses were expected to be sent out, and the priority is health care workers and nursing home residents as infections, hospitalizations and deaths soar in the U.S. With numbers likely to get worse over the holidays, the vaccine is offering a bright spot in the fight against the pandemic that’s killed nearly 300,000 Americans.

Federal officials say the first shipments of Pfizer’s vaccine will be staggered, arriving in 145 distribution centers Monday, with an additional 425 sites getting shipments Tuesday, and the remaining 66 on Wednesday. The vaccine, co-developed by German partner BioNTech, is being doled out based on each state’s adult population.

The vaccine is heading to hospitals and other sites that can store it at extremely low temperatures — about 94 degrees below zero. Pfizer is using containers with dry ice and GPS-enabled sensors to ensure each shipment stays colder than the weather in Antarctica.

Doses should be delivered to all vaccination sites identified by states, such as local pharmacies, within three weeks, federal officials said.

The rollout will ensure there is enough vaccine to give people the two doses needed for full protection against COVID-19. That means the government is holding back 3 million doses to give those vaccinated in the first round a second shot a few weeks later.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of the vaccine Friday, saying it is highly protective and presents no major safety issues.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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