HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – The COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine is finally on its way. Doses rolled out of the company’s Michigan-based plant Sunday morning to hundreds of distribution sites, including Riverside Health System and Sentara Healthcare.
Vice President and Chief Pharmacy Officer at Riverside Health System Cindy Williams said planning for the vaccine’s distribution has been underway for several weeks.
“Not just myself but every health system in the state, we’ve been planning for this for months and now the day is here,” she said.
Williams said the team has spent the weekend firming up plans to distribute the vaccine as quickly as possible.
The health care system is expecting its first shipment as early as Tuesday. Monday will be a dry run of the roll out.
“We’ll be focusing on finishing up the training of our pharmacy team members that will be receiving the vaccine and responsible for storage, monitoring and inventory control,” Williams said.
The rollout comes after the CDC’s advisory panel voted Saturday to recommend the coronavirus vaccine, following the FDA’s emergency use authorization Friday night.
The timing couldn’t be more critical as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to surge across Hampton Roads.
Riverside’s healthcare workers on the front lines will be the first in line to get the shot starting the day after the vaccine arrives.
“We are setting up a vaccination clinic for our healthcare workers that are in the highest priority group at the state level,” said Williams.
According to Williams, Riverside will receive a total of 2,925 doses of the vaccine. Another 2,925 doses for the second shot will arrive 21 days after the first shipment. Still, that’s not enough to cover every health care worker.
“We’ve looked at the quantity we’re going to get initially, and we know it’s not enough for everybody, every healthcare provider, so we’re following the guidelines that have been published by the state, by Virginia Department of Health, to further prioritize our team members,” Williams said.
Once those on the front lines and the elderly living in nursing homes are all vaccinated, Williams said essential workers and high-risk seniors could be next in line, but they’re still waiting on further guidance from the CDC.
“We believe what they’re calling group 1B would be essential workers,” she said. “What we don’t know is who’s going to be included in essential workers. There’s been some discussion if it’s K-12 schoolteachers. I think a lot of that has yet to be determined.”
Williams believes the COVID-19 vaccine will be widely available to the general public by early summer. Meantime, she said they’ll have a better idea of what Moderna’s vaccine roll out plan will look like later this week, adding those doses should arrive the week of December 21.