Indiana hospital rehearses roll-out of much-anticipated Covid-19 vaccine

Distribution and inoculations are expected to begin almost immediately thereafter, marking a major stride in the race to stop Covid-1
Last Updated : 12 December 2020, 12:16 IST

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Anticipating the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic, doctors, nurses and pharmacists at an Indianapolis hospital staged a dress rehearsal on Friday of procedures for administering the first Covid-19 vaccine expected to be approved by U.S. regulators.

In a makeshift clinic on the campus of Indiana University Health, about a dozen clinicians went through a dry run of each step in the process of getting the serum, developed by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE, into the arms of patients.

"We are fine-tuning all the processes to make sure when vaccine shows up and that first patient arrives that this will go as seamless as possible," said Mary Kay Foster, the manager of the special pathogens unit at IU Health, as a small group nearby worked out kinks in the patient registration process.

The hospital is one of the first healthcare facilities in the United States designated to administer the Pfizer vaccine, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve for emergency use as early as Friday evening.

Distribution and inoculations are expected to begin almost immediately thereafter, marking a major stride in the race to stop a pandemic that has already killed 290,000 Americans. IU Health officials said they expected 975 doses of the vaccine in the initial shipment.

"I can't wait to tell everyone that we are making history," said Lindsey Richardt, a communications official at the Indiana hospital, who acted as a patient. "Today was just day one so we are just getting the hang of things."

As part of the drill, the team huddled around laptops and some of the clinic's 11 vaccination stations, poring over details of the procedure. Some of the medical staff acted the part of vaccine recipients while others learned the registration and administration processes. Members of the hospital's pharmacy fine-tuned the delicate process of moving the vaccine from cold storage and preparing it for injection.

"This is such a prized commodity," said Tate Trujillo, pharmacy director at IU Health, as he stood next to two freezers that will keep the vaccine at -80 Celsius. "We want shots in people's arms and we don't want to miss a dose."

The mood of anticipation and hope during the dry run was tempered by the knowledge that Indiana has experienced a massive surge in infections, hospitalizations and deaths in recent weeks. Per capita, the state had the second-worst COVID-19 spread in the United States this week, behind Rhode Island, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last spring, IU Health admitted more than 100 COVID-19 patients a day for two straight months. That number dropped to 20 over the summer before spiking to more than 150 this week, according to hospital officials.

The pace has left doctors, nurses and other medical staff physically and emotionally exhausted, said Christopher Weaver, a physician who is overseeing the administration of the vaccine at IU Health.

Published 11 December 2020, 20:50 IST

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