MedStar Health planning to receive Pfizer vaccine imminently

One of the largest hospital systems in the D.C. area said that it is expecting to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine “imminently” and is preparing for how to store, track, and disseminate it based on whom health experts have determined are priority patients.

Dr. Bonnie Levin leads the pharmacy enterprise across MedStar Hospital System’s 10 hospitals, including Washington Hospital Center in D.C.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine still needs the green light from a panel of experts who comprise the  Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory panel. The panel meets from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday to scrutinize the company’s vaccine data. You can watch the FDA advisory panel’s meeting online.

Levin said there is a core team preparing for how it will receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The first vaccine we’re getting is from Pfizer. That’s the one that requires the ultracold storage. It will arrive in specially developed thermal containers that look kind of like a rolling suitcase that will hold up to 5,000 doses, in individual they’re calling them personal pizza boxes.

Each pizza box will hold, I think, about 1,000 doses,” Levin said.

The hospital system has and is continuing to get more freezers that can maintain -80 Celsius temperatures, which the Pfizer vaccine requires. Other vaccines will have different storage requirements, she said.

MedStar is also coordinating with the Maryland and D.C. health departments to plan and allocate the expected amount of vaccine each jurisdiction is getting and disbursing it based on priority, starting with health care workers.

“It really depends on your age, your job and your health as to when you get a vaccine. We get a lot of questions about that,” Levin said.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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