Swirl, don’t shake, the vaccine
Hospitals are adept at ramping up vaccination campaigns. For example, last year, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in Nashville, Tennessee, vaccinated nearly 16,000 employees against influenza in their 1-day “Flulapalooza” event. The medical center even earned a Guinness world record in 2011 at the first Flulapalooza for giving the most vaccinations ever within 8 hours.
The 10th anniversary of the event was canceled this year because of COVID restrictions. Instead, nurses, pharmacists, and other clinicians pitched in to vaccinate their coworkers against influenza. Now, plans for COVID-19 vaccination move forward amid uncertainty.
Instead of holding a mass event, “the delivery mechanisms will need to be more targeted and focused,” said Lori Rolando, MD, MPH, director of the Vanderbilt Occupational Health Clinic. In the CDC’s most recent version of its vaccination program “playbook,” the agency recommends giving the vaccines in an area that allows people to remain 6 feet apart and for them to wait for 15 minutes after receiving the shot to make sure they don’t faint, a potential risk common to almost all vaccines.
That’s the easy part. Planning becomes more complex, given the uncertainty as to which vaccines will receive approval and which one a hospital will receive.
If the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine receives EUA in 2020, about 10 to 20 million doses could be available in November and 20 to 30 million doses in December. The ultracold containers used to ship the vaccines have to be replenished with dry ice within 24 hours of receipt and every 5 days thereafter. Hospitals will need temperature probes to monitor storage in the containers. The five-dose vials can be refrigerated before administering, but only for 5 days. The product must be diluted, and it then must be used within 6 hours.
The Moderna vaccine will be somewhat less plentiful at first. About 10 million doses are expected in November and 15 million doses by the end of December. The 10-dose vials are stored in a freezer. Once they are placed in a refrigerator to thaw, they have to be used within 7 days, and once they’re removed from the refrigerator, they have to be used within 12 hours. The pharmacist or other vaccinator must swirl – but not shake! – the vial before delivering a dose, according to the CDC playbook.
As more information emerges about the vaccines, instructions may change, and Smith is steeled for shifting scenarios. “These are all draft plans. We’re going to modify as we go along,” he says.
The Pfizer vaccine requires a second dose at 21 days, and the Moderna vaccine targets the second dose at 28 days. In addition to using information systems to track vaccinations and any adverse effects, hospitals will give employees a card indicating what vaccine they received, the date it was administered, and the date on which they need to return. (At this point, the time frame for the second dose doesn’t appear to be flexible.)
Regardless of the vaccine, one message stays the same: COVID precautions must continue. That means mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing – practices that also must be followed by healthcare workers who test positive for naturally acquired antibodies.
“I don’t think anyone expects the COVID vaccine to be 100% effective at preventing COVID,” says Rolando. “So all of the other tools in our toolbox are going to need to be continued to be used as well.”
*Correction, 11/12/20: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of Dr. Drees’ institution.
This article first appeared on Medscape.com.