UVA Health is planning to administer the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine next week to employees at highest risk of acquiring COVID-19 through work-related exposure, while also preparing for larger-scale distribution.
A first group of nearly 3,000 health system employees received notice earlier this week that they are eligible to receive vaccination, which is encouraged, but not required. The Virginia Department of Health recently informed UVA Health that it will receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in its first shipment.
In preparation, the health system has procured two extreme deep freezers to store the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored at temperatures of minus-80 degrees. In addition, a special clinic has been set up and will be staffed by registered nurses and pharmacists who have volunteered to administer the vaccine.
The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that Pfizer’s vaccine was highly effective and did not present any specific safety concerns, and signaled that it could authorize the vaccine for use in the U.S. in a matter of days.
Britain began delivering the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday, becoming the first nation to begin using a fully tested vaccine.
To obtain full protection from the Pfizer vaccine, recipients must receive two doses 21 days apart.
Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia Department of Health will determine the next phases of the distribution process, which is expected to prioritize other essential workers, such as first responders; people with higher risk of significant health problems associated with COVID-19; and the elderly, following high-risk health care workers.
Planning for vaccine allocation and distribution in Virginia is being led by the CDC and the state Department of Health. The logistical effort to distribute the vaccines will involve multiple groups, including area hospitals, pharmacies and the Thomas Jefferson Health District.
UVA Health expects to receive additional doses in late December and in January. As vaccine supplies increase, other groups of UVA Health team members will be offered the vaccine. Ultimately, COVID-19 vaccinations will be offered to the entire UVA Health team.
As details become available, the University will communicate plans for distribution of the vaccines to UVA faculty, staff and students and the broader community.