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Q&A: How Pardee joined the elite 11 in getting first Covid vaccinations

Hospitals across the U.S. are preparing to administer the first vaccinations against the Covid-19 virus. Pardee Hospital is among the elite few in the first wave in North. Selected as one of the 11 facilities in North Carolina to receive the first shipment of the vaccine, Pardee is working around-the-clock to get ready.

The Hendersonville Lightning asked Pardee a series of questions on how and why it was chosen and how doctors and nurses will give the potentially life-saving shots to the first tier of recipients.

Pardee volunteered to be a pre-positioning site. What was involved in that? How long ago was that process?

There have been many hundreds of hours across many disciplines throughout the organization allocated to vaccine planning. With the support of the Board of Directors and Pardee leadership, we were able to purchase the ultra-low temperature freezer about a month ago. This allowed us to be able to store and administer the Pfizer vaccine, and be a ready partner when the state decided to begin distribution. The freezer and its storage ability on site enables us to focus on vaccinations rather than purchasing and utilizing dry ice or getting the doses administered before the product expires. We believe that our early efforts to prepare are what make our hospital ready now to begin the vaccination process.

Knowing that we would have this capability, Pardee volunteered to be a pre-positioning site for the CDC. This means that Pardee is a site that may be used to pre-position COVID-19 vaccines to ensure that supply is closer to the administration site where vaccines are needed once the Food and Drug Administration issues an Emergency Use Authorization and Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations are made. This pre-positioning is a one time effort intended to shorten the timeline between EUA release and the initiation of vaccine administration.

To be a candidate, facilities had to:
1. Have ultra-cold (-60 degree to -80 deg C) freezer storage.
2. Be able to serve front line health care workers.
3. Be able to store, handle, and monitor ultra-cold temperature vaccine.
4. Not  be dependent on dry ice or thermal coolers for storage to receive this one-time shipment.

Meeting all four conditions, Pardee qualified as an early ship site and receive the vaccine prior to final ACIP recommendations, shortening the time to vaccination distribution among our staff. In addition, we also volunteered to be an open site which means once the first initial phases of vaccination are completed (i.e., health care workers and LTCF residents/staff, population with 2 or more underlying conditions), Pardee will be able to provide the vaccine to the public.

Did it help that the manufacturer was local? How did the purchase come about?

With Thermo Fisher being a leader in medical grade temperature-controlled storage and a local vendor, we were able to quickly identify a contact and the right equipment. With the close proximity we were able to have the freezer on site within 7 days. Other vendors would have shipped from across the U.S. with an estimated arrival time of mid to late December or into January 2021.

As one of only 11 sites chosen to get the first delivery of the Covid doses, what obligations does Pardee have to vaccinate outside the county if any?

Our priority is to begin with high-risk health care workers here at Pardee who are willing to be vaccinated. Following all federal and state guidelines, along with the forthcoming recommendations from the ACIP, Pardee will also be able to offer the vaccine to frontline workers and clinicians within our community — Health Department and EMS workers, for example. We anticipate that area hospitals will soon gain access to vaccines and begin distribution efforts within their communities.

How many doses are there?

We expect to receive 975 doses in this first shipment.

When do the shots start and what is the process for giving the shots?

We will begin vaccinating the first group of volunteers as soon as we receive the recommendations from the ACIP and clear all steps with the NC DHHS database. We hope to begin as early as Monday, Dec. 14, but will not be able to confirm that until we have all the required information and steps completed.

We know CDC and NC DHHS have prioritized vaccine recipients — patient-facing health care providers, nursing home residents, EMTs, etc. Do we know how many people are in the first tier and in each tier? Are there enough shots to cover all the first tier, for instance?

We will vaccinate as many volunteers in Phase 1a as we possibly can. We will only receive 975 doses in this first shipment.

Can you explain the second shot and how that works? Is the person not inoculated until receiving the booster?

The current clinical trial data indicate optimal immune responses following two vaccinations for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and 95% efficacy for the Pfizer vaccine beginning 1 week after receipt of the second vaccine. Based on these clinical trials and the anticipated EUA for these vaccines, individuals will be recommended to receive both vaccines in the series for optimal protection.

Are people calling Pardee already and clamoring to get a shot?

We know that our community is eager to see the vaccine distributed and we look forward to being able to do that as more vaccines are available. We ask for patience as we, like other hospitals in the state, manage vaccine distribution in compliance with all phases as directed by CDC and FDA.

This seems like an honor and an impressive vote of confidence from on high that Pardee was chosen to get this vaccination. What does it say about our county hospital is among the first sites to get the vaccination doses?

Pardee is honored to be among the first 11 facilities in the state to receive the vaccine and begin the distribution process. Our community depends on us and it was important to our leadership early on to allocate the funds needed in order to purchase the ultra-low temperature freezer required to store the Pfizer vaccine. Their foresight early on to allocate the funds needed in order to purchase the ultra-low temperature freezer required to store the Pfizer vaccine, as well as the countless hours across all departments and disciplines spent on vaccine planning has positioned Pardee to be a ready partner for the state’s distribution plan. As we celebrate this milestone in the course of the pandemic, it is important that our community remain vigilant and continue to practice the 3-Ws of wearing a face covering, waiting at least 6 feet apart and washing hands.