At 9:50 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 15 two small, white boxes containing the concentrate for 5,850 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine arrived at Texas Health’s central pharmacy. The doses were quickly stored in a special deep freezer and prepared for distribution.
Randy Ball, M.B.A., R.Ph., vice president of pharmacy and system pharmacy officer, pushed the shipment into an elevator and rolled it into the room containing a tall freezer that will maintain the required -94 degrees F. He unloaded the small stacks of Pfizer boxes, each about the size of a box of chocolates, into the freezer wearing special blue gloves that guard against the intense cold.
The historic moment was quick and efficient — a portion of the vaccines were taken to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest Fort Worth where vaccinations begin. The vaccine in the vials will first be thawed and then diluted before vaccinations can take place.
“Our team members are exhausted from nine months of providing intensive care to seriously ill patients with COVID-19, but despite that weariness they continue to care for patients and their families each day,” said Barclay Berdan, FACHE, Texas Health chief executive officer. “The vaccine will help protect these heroes as they continue to serve the people in our communities.”
The system’s initial state allocation will be used for the vaccination of front-line caregivers and other healthcare workers in emergency departments and COVID-19 units beginning Tuesday. More shipments are expected from Pfizer and Moderna, which the FDA is still reviewing for Emergency Use Authorization, in the coming weeks and months.
“The sooner you give the vaccine, the sooner you’re going to get more,” Ball said. “This is exciting to be able to provide this level of protection to our front-line healthcare workers today.”
Vaccination clinics are scheduled at 16 of the system’s hospitals this week, once training is complete. A tiered approach is being used, consistent with current guidelines from the state Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Ball said the goal is to administer all the vaccines in the current shipment by the end of the day Friday.
The vaccine will go to vaccination events across the system in special coolers with dry ice with temperature monitors. This initial shipment is for the first of the two vaccinations required.
As more vaccine becomes available, it will be offered to a wider group of healthcare workers in different settings within Texas Health, with the intent of offering the vaccine to all Texas Health employees over time as the vaccine becomes available.
“As this and other COVID-19 vaccines are approved for emergency use, we remain committed to evaluating what is safest and most effective,” Berdan said.
Healthcare workers who choose to get vaccinated will still be required to follow personal protective equipment standards, according to a news release from the Arlington-based healthcare gian.
Also on Tuesday, Dec. 15, Tarrant County Public Health reported 12 COVID-19 deaths. The deceased included a woman from Arlington in her 90s, a woman from Azle in her 90s, a man and woman from Fort Worth in their 80s, a woman from Sansom Park in her 80s, a man from Fort Worth in his 70s, a man from Euless in his 70s, a man from White Settlement in his 70s, a man from Forest Hill in his 60s, a man from Arlington in his 60s, a man from Euless in his 50s, and a woman from Fort Worth in her 40s. All had underlying health conditions.
Tarrant County now has 1,026 confirmed deaths from the COVID-19 virus and 88,863 people have recovered.
State health officials on Tuesday reported 14,569 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, along with 2,754 probable cases and 205 deaths. There were 9,472 people hospitalized with the virus in the state Tuesday and intensive care units in some regions were at or near full capacity, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Texas has reported more than 24,000 deaths linked to COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That’s the second highest total number of deaths for any state in the country. Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new coronavirus cases has increased by 2,405.4, an increase of 20.7%, according to the university’s data. There were 703.4 new cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks in Texas, which ranks 41st in the country for new cases per capita.