MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - With FDA approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine expected any day, Mid-South hospitals are finalizing their distribution plans.
Speaking in Memphis at a vaccine roundtable last week, Vice President Mike Pence said the first vaccines would be shipped within 24 hours of FDA approval, and distribution would begin immediately.
The average citizen may have their chance at a vaccine by the spring, but paramedics, nurses and physicians will get the vaccine first.
Leaders at Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare discussed their distribution plan Thursday.
“We don’t have a firm date on when the vaccine will arrive, but we anticipate in the next week or so,” Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare Chief Nurse Executive Nikki Polis said. “We’re ready.”
Local hospitals will be the first to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare said its able to store the vaccine in the required subzero temperature and will start administering it to its staff first.
“The first phase is called phase 1A,” Polis said. “It’s meant for emergency and inpatient hospital team members who have direct exposure to patients who are COVID positive or suspect COVID positive.”
The plan follows the state’s guidelines. The vaccine will not be mandatory for Methodist LeBonheur employees, but Polis said it’s encouraged. Right now the healthcare system is trying to educate employees about the vaccine and find trusted individuals to take it first. They’re hoping for a sort of ‘Elvis effect’ the country saw decades ago during the push for the polio vaccine.
“Elvis Presley went on TV and was a champion for it,” Polis said. “They were not able to get people to take the vaccine and he went on tv and championed for it. Within six months, they met or exceeded their goal. One of the things we’re doing internally is looking for those Elvis Presley’s.”
Polis said while hospitals administer vaccines to staff the Health Department will help inoculate vulnerable members of the population like those in long-term care facilities. About a dozen members of the National Guard have been helping Methodist staff and they may be used when it comes to vaccine activities.
While MLH answered questions about its plan Thursday, WMC Action News 5 reached out to all the major hospital networks in Shelby County to see what their plans look like.
Baptist Memorial said its plan looks like this:
- We will receive the vaccine from the manufacturers or wholesalers per the State’s allocation, and we will store it per manufacturer’s directions (freezer or dry ice)
- We will prioritize our employee groups per State department direction
- We will use all that is allotted to us and work our way through employee categories and then move onto patients and community
- If an entity completes their employee vaccine efforts and has leftover vaccine we will move it to another location that needs it and we have a workflow (straight from the CDC) that directs us on how to transport it.
St. Francis Health System said this about its distribution plan:
“According to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, vaccines could begin to be available to frontline healthcare workers sometime in mid-December once emergency use authorization is granted. We will be vaccinating eligible members of our staff in accordance with FDA, CDC, state, and local guidelines.
The most effective safety measures we can take against COVID-19 continue to be wearing a mask, washing our hands, and maintaining social distance. These measures are important during the holidays as we continue to see a surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations.”
Regional One Health’s plan is the following:
“We are awaiting word on when we will receive the vaccines, but we are going to make it available to our employees. Our COVID team has been anticipating the vaccine and making plans for quite a while. Once we receive word on when the vaccine with be sent to us, we are ready to store, distribute, and administer to our employees. We will follow the guidelines that will be set by the federal and state governments for distribution, and our front line employees will be our first priority to receive the vaccine.”