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After trial run, University of Kentucky HealthCare ready for Pfizer vaccine

Posted at 3:00 PM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-04 18:22:33-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — University of Kentucky HealthCare is set to become one of 11 hospitals in Kentucky to receive some of the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine after a successful trial run with a package from Pfizer Thursday.

The COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer requires a very low temperature which, in part, was reason for a trial run in which a box with everything with the vaccine arrived at UK Healthcare this week.

UK Healthcare Executive Vice President of Health Affairs Dr. Mark Newman said his team was thrilled the trial run was successful.

"The more you know and the more you prepare, just like anything else you do, the more prepared you are, the lower the risk of things going, whether or not being because you would thinking about how important and how valuable this vaccine is you would not want to have it," Dr. Newman said. "Something happened where we'd lost vaccine or was unable to use it all. So I think that the more we prepare and the more we work, it's very much better for us and hopefully for our patients."

The Pfizer vaccine is a two-dose process, three weeks apart that also is time sensitive on its temperature.

UK HealthCare's Chief Pharmacist Phillip Almeter explained, "The shelf life is great at negative 80, but then once you thaw it takes about three hours, putting in the refrigerator to thaw to the refrigerated temperature up to two to eight degrees Celsius. And once you get there, you have five days. You can also thaw it at room temperature in about 30 minutes, but you need to administer it very quickly after that."

The vaccine is expected to arrive in Kentucky during the week of December 14.

"This is speculation," said Almeter. "I know the FDA is going to evaluate this on the 10th. They're not just receiving that information on the 10th. Pfizer I know applied weeks in advance so they've been looking at this for weeks and they'll make the decision on the 10th. But what you can know is that the University of Kentucky is ready to receive this any day of the week we can receive it. If it comes on a Sunday morning, we will receive it."

UK HealthCare surveyed its employees to gauge their interest on taking the vaccine which will not be mandatory but highly encouraged, especially for employees at the highest risk. The survey found about 50% said they are ready to take the vaccine in the first shipment in December. About 30 percent said they want to see more data and information before they are comfortable.

"As we start to vaccinate, we will get more and more data continuously over time, about safety profiles," said Newman. "So we'll know even more over time as we do it but I think the whole idea is, that's what we do we want to continue to, again, do the--user very best data and get as many people vaccinated as we can and continue to look at the safety profiles as, as this and other vaccines come out."

Almeter said he's been hearing from those who already tested positive for COVID asking whether they should get the vaccine. He said, "I think the recommendations that will be coming out are then we should still get vaccinated possible because we're seeing infection rates, three months after testing positive...So, more to come on that but this vaccine will help us wipe this out, and I'm very encouraged that this test really went well and I'm excited to see where the University of Kentucky, Kentucky Department of Public Health and all the providers in the state can do our part to achieve this goal."

Overall the news of the groundwork being set is encouraging to Newman as he called this phase "the beginning of the end."

"We still have to be cautious we still have to have people wearing masks we still have to have, you know, people spacing and washing their hands and doing the things that keep them safe," said Newman. "You don't want to get close to the, to the finish line, and have people get infected and have bad outcomes that's a key thing. And the other thing is encouraging people to be part of the vaccination process so that we can get a large enough percentage of our population vaccinated, that we can essentially eradicate this as a major problem for our population and for healthcare."