GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Preparation in Kent County is underway to receive the COVID-19 vaccination when it is granted emergency use authorization, beginning with an ultra low temperature freezer to store the vaccinations. A second freezer is also on its way.
The freezer can maintain temperatures of -80°C/-112°F, making it a challenge to ship, store and distribute. The Kent County Health Department estimates the freezer can hold up to 20,000 doses at once, but it may be able to store a larger quantity depending on how the vaccine is packaged.
The freezer has deep chambers to shield the cold temperatures from escaping, aided by an additional door on the outside. Healthcare workers will have to wear special gloves in order to handle the immunizations.
There will also be strict regulation in place to preserve the contents. From the guidance the health department has received, staff understand the vaccination will need to thaw prior to injection. It can stay refrigerated for roughly 5 to 7 days.
The health department has yet to learn how many doses they will receive and when. However, the FDA has scheduled an emergency use authorization meeting on December 10th regarding Pfizer's vaccination and will know more when the meeting is held.
"So when you don’t know that, you look at all scenarios and have everything ready for whatever happens," said Mary Wisinski, Immunizations Supervisor.
The team is promising transparency during the process and will follow CDC guidelines for administration.
"It’s a huge responsibility, and it’s kind of scary because you want to do the right thing. You want to do it for so many people. We want to make sure that we are following the guidelines and we are making ethical decisions," said Wisinksi.
Frontline workers will be the first to receive the vaccination in the county.