WORCESTER (CBS) — Hospitals across the state are preparing to receive vaccine shipments this week, and begin administering them to those on the front line. Nearly 60,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine will arrive in Massachusetts during the next week, after being approved for emergency use in the United States.
UMass Memorial in Worcester expects to receive 1,950 doses this week. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Andrew Karson said, “Frontline caregivers who are emergency doctors and nurses, and nursing aides, the housekeeping folks, anyone that’s gonna be in a room of a COVID patient, or we suspect might have coronavirus, will be getting the vaccination first.”
Karson said employees will start receiving their doses Thursday morning. It’s a process that has taken careful planning, even some practice.
“We went and did a trial run on Friday,” said Karson, “we’re going to trial run tomorrow at another campus. The only step for us now is getting the vaccine in our hands to get to our employees.”
One concern is the possibility of side effects, and how they could impact staffing levels. Karson says 10-15% of employees who receive the vaccine could experience a reaction that requires them to miss work for a day, or two. The plan is to stagger the vaccinations among various employee groups.
“We don’t want to have our entire nursing staff, for example, and then lose 10-15% for a day,” said Karson, “So we’re going stage it a bit.”
At Tufts Medical Center, employees could start receiving their first dose as early as Wednesday.
Director of Emergency Management Nick Duncan said the hospital is set to receive 975 doses Monday or Tuesday. Any eligible hospital worker will then be able to sign up for their first dose.
“We’re going to open it up,” said Duncan, “there’s no pecking order here at Tufts Medical Center, there’s no one more important than anyone else.”
As far as storage goes, the Pfizer vaccine needs to be kept at extremely cold temperatures. A concern for some rural hospitals, but not as much for hospitals like Tufts. Duncan said they have several ultra-cool freezers to keep the vials at the necessary temperature.
“We are prepared for both vaccines to store them and administer them.”
The other vaccine, developed by Cambridge-based Moderna, could be ready for distribution next week. The FDA is set to consider it for emergency use later this week.