History unfolded as the first authorized COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. shipped out to spots across the country, including roughly 31,000 doses to Connecticut.
The first COVID-19 vaccines in the state arrived to Hartford Hospital on Monday morning. Later in the morning, the first vaccine was given out to a frontline health care worker.
Initial Vaccine Supply
“I’ve got my phone on and waiting for the call from our vaccine coordinator that it’s arriving at any point,” said UConn Health Hospital Epidemiologist Dr. David Banach.
UConn Health is on standby, expecting about 1,000 doses initially.
And it comes as hospitals continue to see a rush of COVID-19 patients amid a fall surge.
“I think this is a really critical time for turning the tide on the pandemic,” said Dr. Banach.
The truck carrying the Pfizer vaccine arrived to Hartford Hospital's loading dock around 9 a.m. on Monday morning, which was earlier than expected. They had been following the tracking information from Fedex.
“Excitement, anticipation,” said Eric Arlia, Hartford HealthCare’s Senior Director Systems Pharmacy. “We are expecting 1,950 doses in our first-week allocation, which is to what they call, trays of the vaccine.”
Hartford HealthCare expects almost immediately 15 front-line healthcare workers will receive the vaccine, including doctors and nurses.
They represent various facilities including Backus Hospital, Charlotte Hungerford, Hartford and Windham.
“We want to make sure that we have enough of our workforce healthy so that we're able to care for the patients coming to us,” said Arlia.
Harford HealthCare has 23,000 workers in its hospitals and is working to meet a state goal of having medical staff vaccinated in seven weeks.
That does depend on continuing vaccine shipments and scheduling a lot of appointments, since the Pfizer vaccine requires a second, later dose.
Vaccine Safety & Effectiveness
Dr. Banach is also the co-chair of a state group that studied the Pfizer vaccine.
They recommended its use to the governor this weekend after reviewing the FDA process and information from a clinical trial.
“I think the data that we’ve seen does support that it is safe for administration,” said Banach.
Banach says the study was well done and that the vaccine’s comparatively quicker arrival is to due steps to speed up development, manufacturing and distribution.
Vaccine Supplies & Storage
Hartford HealthCare says for every vaccine tray the federal government has separately shipped and it has already received a kit with syringes, alcohol pads and information cards.
It also includes saline to reconstitute the vaccine since it comes as a powder.
Pfizer has provided instructions for how to do that.
The vaccine also needs to be ultra frozen so Hartford Healthcare bought a special freezer that can keep the vials at -100 Fahrenheit.
Once the vaccine is taken out of that, it can be kept in a refrigerator for up to five days and that will give it time to be moved to other hospitals in the state.