RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Triangle hospitals are preparing to give out the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine once the FDA gives the go-ahead. Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday that North Carolina is preparing to receive the Pfizer vaccine, which is first in line for FDA authorization.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Mandy Cohen, the very first doses will go to hospitals for healthcare workers at high risk of exposure to COVID-19. Some hospitals expect they’ll have the vaccines in as few as two weeks.
Dr. David Kirk, Associate Chief Medical Officer for WakeMed, said the hospital is ready.
“We’ve got everything launched and ready to go. We just need a vaccine in hand,” he said.
That first vaccine shipment won’t have nearly enough for everyone, though.
“We have about 11,000 employees we feel would benefit from the vaccine,” Kirk said. “We only expect to probably get 1,000 or so doses, so it’s very important to us to figure out who is the highest risk of being exposed to COVID and make sure we get those team members access to the vaccine,” he explained, adding that the vaccine is for all workers at high risk of exposure.
“Not just the doctors or the nurses, but everybody that’s part of the treatment team — people that clean the room, people that bring the tray, the people that draw the labs.”
Kirk said a committee at WakeMed determined people who work in the emergency room or urgent care may be at the highest risk.
“They’re in the trenches. Every person they see could potentially have COVID, so we want to make sure they have access to the vaccinations first,” he said. “The second-highest risk are the people who are taking care of the COVID patients day after day. We feel those are slightly lower risk because they have all the PPE.”
Each healthcare system must determine who can get the first doses. Dr. Joseph Rogers, Chief Medical Officer for Duke Health, said teams are working out logistics.
“What we’re doing is quickly surveying the entire workforce at Duke, trying to figure who those people are working in those high-risk areas,” he said.
The vaccine made by Pfizer must be kept in ultra-cold storage in special freezers.
“We’ll have to be administering the vaccine fairly quickly after it thaws,” Rogers said. “We’ve designated a COVID vaccination area in one of our buildings.”
It’s only the beginning, but doctors hope these vaccines are a big step in the fight against COVID-19.
“I think people are very enthused to have the process move forward,” Rogers said. “It’s been a long eight or nine months.”
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