St. Charles Health System expects to receive its first 975 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 17, with vaccinations expected to start Dec. 21, according to a Dec. 15 press briefing. All 975 doses will go to St. Charles caregivers, and the State will send additional doses within 21 days, when the second dose is needed. Both the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which already received emergency use authorization, and the Moderna vaccine, expected to be approved this week, require two doses.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends first vaccinating health care providers and long-term care facility residents in what it calls “Phase 1a” of the vaccine rollout. It then recommends essential workers, people with high-risk medical conditions and adults 65 and older to follow. St. Charles doesn’t expect to begin vaccinating most Oregonians until late spring or early summer 2021.
- St. Charles Health System
- In a screengrab from a video issued by St. Charles, pharmacist Tyler Larson demonstrates the use of the freezer used to store and administer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine require ultra-cold storage at minus 70 degrees Celsius. Once removed from the freezer, the vaccine must be thawed for two hours and then administered within six hours. St. Charles only has one freezer at its Bend location that can store up to 5,000 doses at that temperature, so for now, all vaccinations will occur there. St. Charles aims to soon secure a second ultra-cold freezer from OHA.
Across its four locations, St. Charles medical staff approaches 800 people. The health system will bring caregivers from locations in Redmond, Madras and Prineville during paid work hours for vaccination in Bend. An internal survey conducted by St. Charles indicates that over 90% of medical staff would elect to receive the vaccine when available. While it cannot legally require people to get the vaccine, St. Charles will encourage all staff to do so.
Most registered vaccine providers in Oregon are expected to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine over the next two weeks, with additional shipments expected on Dec. 22 and Dec. 29. In addition, deliveries of Moderna’s vaccine are also scheduled for Dec. 22 and Dec. 29, pending U.S. Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization.
“In recent weeks, as COVID-19 vaccines reached the final stages of approval, I have said time and again that hope is on the way,” said Governor Kate Brown in a briefing on Dec. 14. “Today, I can tell you that help is here.”
The shipments follow Friday’s FDA decision to issue emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine, which was found in Phase 3 clinical trials to be 95% effective and, in most people, cause only mild to moderate, short-lived side effects.
Initially, the state will focus on vaccinating frontline healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents who are particularly vulnerable to complications.
“We are in the middle of some of the hardest days of this pandemic,” Brown said. “Our hospitals are stretched to capacity, and too many families are losing loved ones just as we enter the holiday season.” But starting this week, and each week following––as vaccines become more widely available––we will begin gaining ground again, she said.
While he called the vaccine “light at the end of the tunnel,” Oregon Health Authority director Patrick Allen also stressed that vaccinations for most Oregonians remain months away. In the meantime, Allen asks for vigilance in practicing effective prevention measures, including wearing masks, physical distancing, avoiding gatherings and staying home if sick.