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Im ready today: Louisiana officials prepare to distribute COVID-19 vaccine – WDSU New Orleans

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Dec 2, 2020

State and local officials are working with health systems like Ochsner to prepare to distribute a coronavirus vaccine when one becomes available.Dr. Debbie Simonson, vice president of pharmacy for Ochsner Health, told WDSU the efforts are two-fold.”The key to this vaccine, besides the mass vaccination, is storage and logistics,” Simonson said. “I’m ready today if they send them my way.”Simonson said since the pandemic started, Ochsner has purchased dozens of freezers to meet the special requirements of each potential vaccine. For example, the health system has stationed one freezer in Shreveport, Lafayette and New Orleans. Each one can store Pfizer’s vaccine candidate, which must be kept at minus 75 degrees Celsius.”That’s so if we had to store that Pfizer vaccine for a longer period of time and then distribute it out, we would have the capacity to do that,” Simonson said. “Pfizer is planning to send shippers so that you can use the shipper for 14 days, but we were concerned when it got into more of the mass vaccination that you would need to be able to store this longer, so we’re prepared for that.”In addition, Ochsner purchased 26 additional freezers for each of its facilities, meaning they all will have an extra freezer on hand.”Every site for Ochsner has an extra freezer, and that was for the Moderna (vaccine) to make sure that we had that available, and then we purchased 16 refrigerators,” Simonson said. “Basically, if I had to store a vaccine, I can store about 540,000 vials.”Ochsner has also been working with local health officials to practice distributing a vaccine on a mass scale.In October, the city hosted a drive-thru flu shot event, which served as a trial run for a mass vaccination distribution. Dr. Jennifer Avegno, the director of the New Orleans Health Department, said they learned a lot.”It was a great success,” Avegno said. “We want to do it again and focus on some of the things that we learned in that exercise to see if we can tighten them up.”The city will host a similar event from 1 to 6 p.m. Dec. 11 at First Grace Methodist Church on Canal Street. But Avegno cautioned residents to be patient. She said once a COVID-19 vaccine is available, it will still take months to vaccinate a majority of the population.”If you just think about New Orleans, we have 400,000 people. The top two vaccine contenders, right now, each need two doses about three or four weeks apart, so that’s close to 1,000,000 doses of vaccine and a month lag time,” Avegno said. “So if all 400,000 people showed up on the first day, obviously that really wouldn’t work.”That said, local officials hope people will get vaccinated once it’s available to them.”I’d take it tomorrow,” Simonson said. “I have no reservations about taking either one of these vaccines.

State and local officials are working with health systems like Ochsner to prepare to distribute a coronavirus vaccine when one becomes available.

Dr. Debbie Simonson, vice president of pharmacy for Ochsner Health, told WDSU the efforts are two-fold.

“The key to this vaccine, besides the mass vaccination, is storage and logistics,” Simonson said. “I’m ready today if they send them my way.”

Simonson said since the pandemic started, Ochsner has purchased dozens of freezers to meet the special requirements of each potential vaccine. For example, the health system has stationed one freezer in Shreveport, Lafayette and New Orleans. Each one can store Pfizer’s vaccine candidate, which must be kept at minus 75 degrees Celsius.

“That’s so if we had to store that Pfizer vaccine for a longer period of time and then distribute it out, we would have the capacity to do that,” Simonson said. “Pfizer is planning to send shippers so that you can use the shipper for 14 days, but we were concerned when it got into more of the mass vaccination that you would need to be able to store this longer, so we’re prepared for that.”

In addition, Ochsner purchased 26 additional freezers for each of its facilities, meaning they all will have an extra freezer on hand.

“Every site for Ochsner has an extra freezer, and that was for the Moderna (vaccine) to make sure that we had that available, and then we purchased 16 refrigerators,” Simonson said. “Basically, if I had to store a vaccine, I can store about 540,000 vials.”

Ochsner has also been working with local health officials to practice distributing a vaccine on a mass scale.

In October, the city hosted a drive-thru flu shot event, which served as a trial run for a mass vaccination distribution. Dr. Jennifer Avegno, the director of the New Orleans Health Department, said they learned a lot.

“It was a great success,” Avegno said. “We want to do it again and focus on some of the things that we learned in that exercise to see if we can tighten them up.”

The city will host a similar event from 1 to 6 p.m. Dec. 11 at First Grace Methodist Church on Canal Street.

But Avegno cautioned residents to be patient. She said once a COVID-19 vaccine is available, it will still take months to vaccinate a majority of the population.

“If you just think about New Orleans, we have 400,000 people. The top two vaccine contenders, right now, each need two doses about three or four weeks apart, so that’s close to 1,000,000 doses of vaccine and a month lag time,” Avegno said. “So if all 400,000 people showed up on the first day, obviously that really wouldn’t work.”

That said, local officials hope people will get vaccinated once it’s available to them.

“I’d take it tomorrow,” Simonson said. “I have no reservations about taking either one of these vaccines.

 

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