PeaceHealth Southwest to be among first Washington hospitals to receive COVID-19 vaccine

The Vancouver hospital could receive shipments before the end of the month

VANCOUVER — As makers of several potential vaccines for COVID-19 await final approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), plans are well underway for how the first shipments will be distributed.

On Tuesday, Lawrence Neville, MD, chief medical officer for PeaceHealth Medical Group’s Columbia Network, said PeaceHealth Southwest in Vancouver could receive initial shipments within the next two to three weeks.

Lawrence Neville, MD, chief medical officer for PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Group during a media Zoom call. File photo
Lawrence Neville, MD, chief medical officer for PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Group during a media Zoom call. File photo

“If we did, it would likely be the Pfizer product first,” Neville said during a weekly briefing with members of the media, “then followed perhaps a week later by the Moderna vaccine product.”

A timeline for when those vaccines might be made available is still being worked out, but Washington is preparing to send shipments to “staging hospitals” in preparation.

Neville said PeaceHealth Southwest was able to become one of those staging hospitals because of their “ultra cold storage,” which is necessary to keep the vaccines viable, especially the Pfizer version.

PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver. File photo
PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver. File photo

Over the weekend, Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU) officials announced that they were seeking 30,000 Portland-area residents to take part in a stage 3 clinical trial of another potential vaccine candidate by AstraZeneca.

The FDA’s Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet Dec. 10 to consider an emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s vaccine candidate.

If approved, the western state’s Scientific Safety Review Workgroup would proceed with its own process to further determine that the vaccine is safe.

That process could take as little as one or two days, and would be conducted while the vaccine is already being shipped throughout the country.

Washington’s Department of Health officials say they have been allocated an initial shipment of 62,400 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, with a total of around 200,000 by the end of the month, with regular weekly shipments starting in January.

A total of 54 healthcare providers had signed up with the state as of Nov. 25 to be among the first to receive vaccines.

Healthcare employees on the frontlines of the pandemic will be among the first eligible to receive the vaccine. Neville said PeaceHealth Medical Group won’t be requiring employees to take the vaccine “but we’ll be strongly recommending it.”

Washington state has submitted a preliminary vaccine distribution plan to the federal government. That plan can be viewed here.

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