Oregon hospitals, medical centers prep for COVID vaccine distribution


The Portland V.A. has been working closely with the CDC, Operation Warp Speed

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With the US Food and Drug Administration authorizing the first COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in the country, Oregon hospitals are preparing to deploy their allocation of doses.

The FDA granted its blessing over the weekend — meaning hospitals like the Oregon Health and Science University and Kaiser Permanente need to be ready to go. Storage and distribution of the vaccine demand serious planning.

OHSU Pharmacy Services has five ultra-cold freezers with enough physical space for a significant amount of COVID-19 vaccines. The freezers were purchased prior to the pandemic and are used to store commercially available specialty drugs. OHSU’s Research Mission also has a number of ultra-cold freezers and cold rooms to store research drugs, which could be reallocated to COVID-19 vaccine storage if needed.

The OHSU Pharmacy team has purchased three regular freezers to store Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, as well.

Kaiser Permanente also has a couple of freezers. Each freezer can hold well over 200,000 doses, so storage isn’t a problem. Kaiser Permanente will be a designated distribution site — supplying the vaccine to other providers. They’re expecting their first box of 975 vaccines to come Monday and perhaps more boxes later in the week.

Tentatively speaking, Kaiser Permanente plans on starting vaccinating their frontline healthcare workers on Friday. Hospitals are expecting more confirmation of details from federal officials in the next few days.

The Portland Veterans Affairs office has worked in close coordination with the Center for Disease Control and Operation Warp Speed to plan for the COVID-19 vaccination of VA staff and veterans. The medical center was chosen for its ability to vaccinate large numbers of people and store the vaccines at extremely cold temperatures.

The Portland VA will first provide vaccinations to front-line VA health care workers and veterans living in long-term care units. The VA anticipates a limited vaccine supply immediately after the FDA’s approval but expects more supplies to be available in short order.

As vaccine supplies increase, more veterans will recieve vaccinations based on age, exisiting health conditions and other factors that increase the risk of severe illness.

Doctors say it’s imperative during this time to continue our social distancing and masking to continue to prevent the spread of the infection while they work to get the community vaccinated.

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