HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - In the next few days Sentara hospitals will receive their first shipment of Pfizer coronavirus vaccinations manufactured in Belgium.
"We are following CDC criteria on that front care healthcare workers, with receive first as well as respiratory therapist nurses, and anyone else on the floor with direct patient care," said Chief Pharmacy Officer Tim Jennings.
The healthcare system is set to receive around 10,000 vaccines.
"The state of Virginia is getting 77,000 doses or so, so its a limited number we will get," said Jennings.
Sentara has far more than 10,000 front-line workers, so it will take months to get them all vaccinated.
"This is a two dose vaccine day 1 and day 21 for the Pfzier vaccines, so its immunized twice, to have benefit," he said.
The vaccines will be stored in ultra-cold freezers, or over dry ice if they are transported to other hospitals. They must be kept at critical 95 degrees below zero to ensure they are viable. Then it takes 30 minutes to thaw them out before they can be given to a patient.
"We will have temperature monitors in all coolers making sure the temperature is kept at a certain degree during transport before they are administered, so it's going to be very tricky," he said.
Jennings says after the first initial allotment, they expect to get the second dosage about 3 weeks after the first is shipped – a crucial need as the virus continues to spread even within hospital walls.
"The thing that keeps getting repeated is while we are running out of hospital beds we are running out of staff to staff those hospitals, so it is critical to get staff immunized," said Jennings.