NCH preparing early for vaccine arrival with new deep freezers despite no set timeline

Reporter: Veronica Marshall
Published: Updated:

NCH hopes to be at the forefront of getting the COVID-19 vaccine out to the community once it’s available. The health care system is taking now to make that happen.

It’s promising news about potentially ending the pandemic.

Christine Smith is the Chesterfield Site Lead and Vice President of Biotherapeutics Pharmaceutical Sciences for Pfizer.

“The vaccine candidate we are developing with our collaborator BioNTech was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19.”

Experts say that optimism needs to be tempered with realism… because creating the vaccine is only part of the process.

Getting it out to patients is the other.

West Palm Beach-based Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Olayemi Osiyemi said, “This vaccine needs to be stored at certain conditions.”

That condition is an extreme -94 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pfizer says dry ice can keep its vaccine cool during transport, but it’s up to the health care providers after that.

Those facilities could use dry ice as well, but because of the pandemic, CO2 has faced a shortage and bottleneck, which is used in the making of dry ice.

And that could impact who gets the vaccine and when.

Retired Lieutenant General Paul Ostrowski, director for supply, production, and distribution of Operation Warp Speed, said, “We have to make sure that we send that particular vaccine to the right places, that either have that capacity or the ability to do the dry ice– that we’ll need in order to keep it cold.”

But here in Naples, that won’t be a problem. NCH has two new freezers being installed next week specifically for the new coronavirus vaccine.

NCH said each freezer cost about $15,000, and the hospital system put in the orders about two months ago in anticipation of the vaccine’s arrival.

The health care system has also been working to obtain Regeneron, the same drug used to treat President Trump, once it becomes available.

Pfizer said if its trials continue to show success. It will apply for an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA and hope to start distributing the vaccine by the end of the year.

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