In partnership with the West Central MN Healthcare Preparedness Coalition (WCMHPC), Lake Region Healthcare (LRH) has been part of a workgroup developing a plan for redistribution of the COVID-19 vaccine within the region and has been identified as a distribution hub for the vaccine’s first phase.
The coalition’s primary focus has been assisting hospitals with the Pfizer Ultra Cold COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Due to the logistical complications related to ultra-cold requirements for the Pfizer vaccine (it must be stored at -80⁰C to -60⁰C or -112⁰F and -76⁰F), LRH has been identified as the initial site to receive the ultra-cold vaccine from the manufacturer. Officials say the first vaccine shipment is expected in the next couple of weeks.
“We understand Pfizer is ready to ship as soon as the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is given by the FDA and that we could be receiving vaccine as soon as two weeks from now,” said Kent Mattson, LRH CEO. “We have an ultra-cold freezer that thankfully meets the Pfizer vaccine ultra-cold temperature requirements and since we are centrally located within our region, LRH was chosen to provide this service to the coalition and the hospitals within the region acting as a redistribution hub,” Mattson added. Sites who will receive their vaccine from the LRH hub include its critical access affiliate, Prairie Ridge Healthcare, and other neighboring facilities including Alomere Health, Glacial Ridge Health, Perham Health, Stevens Community Medical Center, Sanford Wheaton and CHI St. Francis.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) earlier this month made the recommendation that when a COVID-19 vaccine is authorized by FDA, vaccinations in the initial phase (Phase 1a) should be offered to both health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities. The number of doses made available to the WCMHPC is determined by the Minnesota Department of Health. Once notified of its allocation, the coalition says they will determine the number of doses to be distributed to each healthcare facility in equitable manner.
“During this sustained healthcare crisis, the WCMHPC, and specifically Coordinator Shawn Stoen, has been central to our efforts to effectively collaborate as healthcare organizations to serve our communities,” Mattson said. “We are grateful to have the opportunity to provide this service to our neighboring partners and take a leadership role in bringing the vaccine to our communities as quickly and as safely as possible.” He said the organization has identified the patient-facing staff who will be offered the vaccine in the first phase and that they will be ready to administer as soon as the shipment is received. According Mattson they’ve been told that continuous shipments will go out to states each week to ensure everyone who gets the first does will have the required second dose available within 21 days of getting the initial shot.
“Once we get past the first phase, we will communicate further details about plans for offering vaccinations to the public in the subsequent phases as recommended by ACIP,” Mattson said. To help people find reliable sources and helpful information, a COVID Vaccine section has been added to the LRH website at www.lrhc.org/COVID19Vaccine. This page will also offer updates on public vaccination opportunities once those are available.