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Michigan may receive "hundreds of thousands" of vaccine doses in mid-December

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Several “hundreds of thousands” of doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be distributed to Michigan as early as mid-December, according to the state health department, with one health system publicly predicting Moderna’s vaccine will arrive in early January. 

“We are actively preparing with hospitals and local health departments so that the state can distribute and administer vaccines once they become available,” said Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, in an email Wednesday. “We have heard this could be as early as mid-December, but no date has been finalized at the federal level...The exact number that will be allocated to Michigan is not known.”

Also on Wednesday, Henry Ford Health System released a statement touting their hospitals’ readiness to receive and distribute a vaccine. 

“The Pfizer vaccine has been submitted for Emergency Use Authorization and is expected to be reviewed by an FDA Advisory Committee on December 10,” the press release says. “Shipments could be received by Henry Ford as early as December 12. Moderna has indicated that it will also soon apply for Emergency Use Authorization and, if approved, could be available in early January.”

Meanwhile, state officials and health care providers are sprinting to prepare for what will be an unprecedented logistical challenge: figuring out how to store the vaccine safely, administer the correct doses at the right times to those who need it most, and provide detailed, daily reports about all of it to both the state and the federal governments.

“This first batch of vaccines is going to be coming to health care systems and counties, and we are waiting to hear what are the number of doses that each of the hospitals will be getting at that time,” Dr. Adnan Munkarah, Henry Ford’s Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer, said Wednesday.

Already some 200 Michigan hospitals and health department sites have been submitted to the CDC as approved vaccine distributors, meaning they’ve successfully navigated the first leg of registration requirements and red tape.

That includes enrolling in the state’s immunization registry, demonstrating they have the capacity to store the vaccine in sub-zero temperatures, and can meet daily reporting requirements about every patient receiving the vaccine and how much they have left on hand.

“We know that the first phase [of those receiving the vaccine] will include health care workers, essential workers and the vulnerable populations: the elderly people with co-morbidities,” Munkarah said. “But without knowing exactly the number of vaccines we will be getting in the first batch, it's going to be very hard to determine how it will be exactly deployed.

“So we are developing a long list at the present time, and the team has worked very, very diligently to make sure that we have all the lists of people who qualify for the vaccine where we are going to give it.”

Because Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines both need to be stored at very cold temperatures, health departments and hospitals are snapping up specialty freezers.

“Over the past few weeks, Henry Ford has received and began installing six specialized freezers that can maintain a temperature as low as minus 85 degrees Celsius for the Pfizer vaccine, and six other freezers that can reach minus 25 below Celsius for the Moderna vaccine,” the health system’s press release states.

“...While the freezers are available commercially, many of the units are on back order as states, local health departments and health care providers across the U.S. and around the world scramble to get them.”

At least 31 hospitals and 11 health departments in Michigan have ultra-cold freezer capabilities, according to Sutfin, which allows for longer term storage of the vaccine.

“However, it is important to note that we expect the vaccine to be given to people very quickly after it is received, and they will be shipped in storage containers with dry ice that can be refreshed and will maintain the appropriate vaccine temperature,” Sutfin said. “Thus, not every entity needs to have an ultra-cold freezer if they are able to receive and get the vaccine administered quickly, which is our expectation.”
 

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