FirstHealth of the Carolinas began administering the second dose of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on Thursday. Those receiving the shot include hospital front line staff and also medical providers from across Moore County.
Jayne Lee, FirstHealth of the Carolina’s director of infection control and patient safety, said vaccination clinics have been underway for prioritized staff who work in high-risk areas each weekday, twice a day, since December.
As of Friday morning, FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital has received 3,900 Pfizer doses and administered 2,124 doses. Systemwide, FirstHealth of the Carolinas has received 5,600 doses of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and administered 2,054 doses.
The Moore County Health Department partnered with FirstHealth on the initial vaccine distribution. Moore Regional Hospital is inoculating its own staff and all other medical providers in the area including those employed at private clinics.
“By the end of Friday, we will be close to administering 50 percent of the doses we’ve received,” Lee said. “We’ve only had this vaccine in our possession for three weeks and in that time, we’ve had two holidays. When you think through the timing, I am really proud of our effort.”
Importantly, Lee said you can’t simply line up people for a vaccine the way the requirements have been set.
“It is a very technical process. It is more than just giving a shot,” Lee said, estimating it takes 35-40 minutes for a person to be registered, receive the vaccination, and then be medically cleared. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine require two-doses spaced apart 21 or 28 days, respectively.
The vaccine process is further complicated by space limitations, Lee said, with social distancing requirements in place. In addition, the vials of vaccine must be removed from cold storage and thawed before they can be administered.
There are also no preservatives in the Pfizer or Moderna coronavirus vaccines, which has both pros and cons, Lee noted. Pfizer vials contain five doses and Moderna vials contain 10 doses.
“A limiting factor is we have to take the vials out to thaw and then administer the vaccines within five hours. You have to have the people ready and willing when the vial is opened.”
“But with no preservative in the vials that is a good thing too. A lot of the time when a vaccine is given and people have a reaction, they are reacting to the preservative.”
FirstHealth’s supply of the coronavirus vaccine is also limited by how much is allocated by the state.
“As we plan to administer the vaccine to our 1a staff and branch into the 1b group in the community, it is important for people to understand we are only getting so many doses from the state. That is a very limiting factor as we set up clinics and the same is true for the health department,” Lee said.
Moore County Health Department announced Thursday it will begin administering doses to residents age 75 and older, those eligible under 1b of the state’s four-phase vaccine rollout plan, as part of an effort called Operation FirstShot.
Contact Laura Douglass at (910) 693-2474 or email firstname.lastname@example.org