Clinics get ready for COVID-19 vaccine nearing release

Published: Nov. 30, 2020 at 6:18 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is the latest to move to FDA approval with results showing about 94 percent effectiveness against COVID-19. It follows Pfizer, who earlier this month, filed for approval with the FDA. both pharmaceutical companies expect to have some doses available by mid-to-late December, depending on approval. As a vaccine moves closer to release, healthcare facilities are putting together plans and getting equipment ready to get people vaccinated.

American Medical Response (AMR) has put a lot of resources into finding a vaccine for COVID-19.

“We’ve had to hire about 30 percent more people. We’ve actually got an extra building next door,” said AMR Regional Vice President Dr. Terry Poling in Wichita. AMR has been a site for seven COVID-19 vaccine candidate studies, including the vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Atra-Zeneca. It’s where volunteers get the vaccine or a placebo to test the effectiveness of the sought-after shot.

“Ordinarily, it takes two to three years to get a vaccine taken care of, but with this federal help and the program that they instituted, it’s coming through in about nine months,” Dr. Poling said.

As those vaccines move closer to approval and then into people’s arms, facilities like Wichita’s Hunter Health Clinic are preparing for the time they’ll be able to get a vaccine into their buildings.

“We’re being proactive. We’ve developed a committee that is looking at the potential for us to receive the vaccine,” said Hunter Health Clinic Director of Clinical Operations Katrina Lauer.

Lauer said part of this preparation includes storage, particularly for the vaccine from Pfizer that needs to be kept at negative 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We have been in the process of purchasing a cold-freeze freezer,” Lauer said.

Another piece of preparation is determining who gets the vaccine when it arrives. Looking at recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Hunter Health said that will start with healthcare workers.

“Once more vaccine is available, we will look at chronic conditions, look at age factors, as well as health disparities such as race, etc... Lauer said.

Since it will take time before the vaccine will be available for the general public, providers advise people to continue wearing masks in public, social distancing and frequently washing hands.

Dr. Poling said Moderna has announced anyone who was in their trial and got the placebo will be able to the vaccine. He said this is likely true of Pfizer and AstraZeneca trial volunteers as well.

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