RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)- If approved, the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines are scheduled to arrive in North Carolina around December 15.
In anticipation, the Duke Health system has converted a conference room into a vaccination room.
CBS 17 asked if the hospital system was prepared for this undertaking.
“We are expecting the potential for a vaccine to be delivered in the next couple of days. We are ready,” said Jason Zivica, director of Emergency Preparedness and Business Continuity at Duke University Health System.
That preparedness starts at the ultra-cold freezers where the vaccines will be stored. They are kept at about -70 degrees and can go as low as -90 degrees.
Outside of these freezers, Zivica said vaccines can last five days in a refrigerator. When it leaves that fridge, it only has hours before it breaks down so it needs to be moved quickly to a patient.
Zivica said Duke started planning for the arrival of a vaccine over the summer and has tweaked its plan as more information has become available.
“The details are definitely changing the way we approach it but fortunately here we have a history of dealing with these kinds of medications,” Zivica said.
Vials are taken to the vaccination room where tables are spaced six feet apart. Zivica said medical personnel will break that six-foot rule to administer the vaccine. Zivica said Duke hospitals will need to schedule staff for vaccines to not disrupt hospital operations.
“This isn’t like the flu vaccine where we could just line everybody up and give a 100 vaccines within a short period of time. You still need to have the social distancing,” said Zivica.
After getting vaccinated, patients then move to a holding area to be monitored for immediate side effects. They would there from 15 to 20 minutes.
This process is for Duke Hospital employees in the first phase of vaccinations only. However, logistical planning already underway for future vaccination phases with the general public.
“I think we take it one step at a time and trying to look three, four steps ahead and that’s where we’re at today,” Zivica said.
Where are the vaccines going first?
The 11 facilities that will get the early shipments are:
- Bladen Healthcare LLC (Bladen County Hospital)
- Caldwell Memorial Hospital
- CarolinaEast Medical Center
- Catawba Valley Medical Center
- Cumberland County Hospital System Inc (Cape Fear Valley Health System)
- Duke University Health System
- Henderson County Hospital Corporation (Margaret R. Pardee Memorial Hospital)
- Hoke Healthcare LLC (Hoke Hospital)
- The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority (CMC Enterprise)
- University of North Carolina Shared Services Agreement
- Wake Forest Baptist Health
More hospitals will also get vaccine shipments during Phase 1a, NCDHHS said.
The list of facilities receiving the early shipments is small due to the limited supply of vaccines that will be made available.
Who is getting the vaccines first?
NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Many Cohen said the first phases of vaccination will focus on frontline healthcare workers at high risk for exposure and those are folks in nursing homes, adult care homes and other long-term care settings.
After that, she said adults with two or more chronic conditions that put them at higher risk for severe illness from COVID19 such as heart disease or diabetes, will be able to get vaccinated. Cohen anticipates the beginning sometime in January.