In anticipation of the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic, doctors, nurses and pharmacists at an Indianapolis hospital on Friday organized a general trial of procedures for administering the first COVID-19 vaccine that is expected to be approved by US regulators. .
At a makeshift clinic on the Indiana University Health campus, about a dozen physicians tested each step in the process of bringing the serum, developed by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE, into the arms of patients.
“We are fine-tuning all the processes to make sure that when the vaccine arrives and the first patient arrives, this will be as seamless as possible,” said Mary Kay Foster, manager of the special pathogens unit at IU Health, a nearby group solved problems in the patient registration process.
The hospital is one of the first healthcare facilities in the United States designated to administer the Pfizer vaccine, which the US Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve for emergency use Friday night.
Distribution and vaccines are expected to begin almost immediately thereafter, marking an important step in the race to stop a pandemic that has already killed 290,000 Americans. IU Health officials said they expected 975 doses of the vaccine in the initial shipment.
“I can’t wait to tell everyone that we are making history,” said Lindsey Richardt, communications officer for the Indiana hospital, who acted as a patient. “Today was only the first day, so we are getting things done.”
As part of the drill, the team huddled around the laptops and some of the clinic’s 11 vaccination stations, carefully studying the details of the procedure. Some members of the medical staff acted as vaccine recipients, while others learned the registration and administration processes. Members of the hospital pharmacy fine-tuned the delicate process of removing the vaccine from cold storage and preparing it for injection.
“This is such a precious product,” said Tate Trujillo, pharmacy director at IU Health, as he stood next to two freezers that will keep the vaccine at -80 degrees Celsius. “We want injections in people’s arms and we don’t want to miss a dose.”
The atmosphere of anticipation and hope during the drill was tempered by the knowledge that Indiana has experienced a massive increase in infections, hospitalizations and deaths in recent weeks. Per capita, the state had the second worst spread of COVID-19 in the United States this week, behind Rhode Island, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last spring, IU Health admitted more than 100 COVID-19 patients a day for two months in a row. That number dropped to 20 over the summer before rising to more than 150 this week, according to hospital officials.
The pace has left doctors, nurses and other medical staff physically and emotionally drained, said Christopher Weaver, a physician who oversees the administration of the vaccine at IU Health.