Utah Hospitals Prepare For Arrival Of COVID-19 Vaccine

Dec 11, 2020, 6:39 PM | Updated: Dec 5, 2022, 11:20 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Once the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer receives emergency authorization from the FDA, thousands of doses will be sent to Utah hospitals, which will manage the distribution. Plans about how the vaccine will be kept ultra cold during transportation and in storage were being fine-tuned.

The first vaccine shipment, 23,000 doses initially, will be distributed between five ultra cold freezers at Utah’s largest hospitals.

The pharmacist in charge of that process for University of Utah Health called it the greatest challenge of his career, so far.

“The last eight months have been challenging on so many levels,” said Russell Findlay, PharmD, MS, with U of U Health.

Findlay’s team has been managing work from home, new treatments for COVID-19, as well as a surge in patients with the virus.

“It’s very volatile. It’s uncertain. It’s complex,” he said. “But, we have a team that rises to the occasion, and it’s also a very exciting time.”

Findlay said they were preparing to receive the vaccine, transfer it into ultra cold freezers and deploy it to vaccine clinics.

Sites have also been set up to vaccinate hospital workers and plans were made to notify employees when it is their time to get the shot. 

“It’s been a very collaborative effort as we contemplate deploying the vaccine,” said Findlay.

The Pfizer vaccine must be shipped in dry ice and stored in ultra cold freezers.

“Stored at -70°, plus or -10°C, so it has very stringent storage and handling requirements,” he said.

The temperature cannot fluctuate, so the team came up with emergency plans in case it does.

“We have to worry about thaw times, so taking it out of ultra-low temperature conditions,” he said. “We have to thaw that appropriately.”

When it’s time to give the vaccines, Findlay said they need to avoid wasting any of the precious vaccine. 

“There are a lot of details involved in making sure that the handling and storage requirements are met to a T. It has to be correct. We have no margin for error,” the pharmacist said.

It’s exciting for his team, he said, because they are in a position to help health care workers at their hospital and everyone in the community.

“It really comes down to a team effort, and I’m very fortunate to have an all-star team,” Findlay said.
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Utah Hospitals Prepare For Arrival Of COVID-19 Vaccine