Wednesday, January 20, 2021
St. Luke’s Vaccines Arrive to Cheers
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Scott Milner opens St. Luke’s first shipment of vaccine.
   
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

COVID GRAPH BY PAUL RIES

Scott Milner had not expected it would be such an emotional experience to handle Idaho’s first shipment of COVID vaccine as he watched news footage of the Pfizer vaccine leave its warehouse in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Sunday.

But on Tuesday he choked back tears as he described his feeling as cheers erupted around the first shipment of hope in a bottle to arrive at St. Luke’s.

 
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The ultra-cold freezer is a big freezer for a small but very important box of vaccine.
 

“Just in the last hour I feel real excited, anticipation,” the senior director of Pharmacy at St. Luke’s told reporters. “I look at all the things 2020 hasn’t been…I feel like we’re all inspired, and we’re all really looking forward to what the vaccine’s potential is. I look at my son who started high school and can’t recognize his classmates because they’re wearing masks and six feet apart. I’m looking forward to when life can get back to some sort of normalcy.”

One of the first shipments of 13,625 doses destined for Idaho arrived at St. Luke’s in Boise Tuesday morning. Health care workers had hoped to get it on Monday but instead spent the day watching news coverage of others across the country getting their first vaccines.

St. Luke’s received 95 doses—or 195 vials—in one tray the size of a small coffee table book. It expects a second shipment on Thursday of what health officials say is the only way to end the pandemic.

Milner said frontline workers in the Treasure Valley will start receiving vaccines on Friday at a location in Meridian. Health care workers at St. Luke’s Magic Valley will get vaccines that day, as well.

 
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Special containers will be used to ship vaccine to the Wood River Valley.
 

A doctor in Rexburg was the first in Idaho to receive a vaccine on Tuesday. And, by the end of the day, a new category had been added to the state’s Coronavirus Dashboard: 38 vaccine doses administered in a state with 1.787 million people.

“I’m excited Magic Valley will get the vaccine,” Milner said. “It’s been a long year for them.”

Milner said St. Luke’s Wood River and McCall will get doses next week—Wood River’s doses allocated by South Central Public Health District.

But, Milner said, he’d just learned that once a vial is removed from its tray the refrigeration time of expiration starts. So, the hospital spent Tuesday shipping coolers around the state with ice packs and real time sensor monitoring to test its capability to move the product while maintaining the -86 degree temperatures it needs.

 
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Idaho reported 1,802 new cases of COVID on Tuesday for 124,019 all told. Twenty more Idahoans have died of COVID bringing the state’s death toll to 1,214 deaths. Blaine County added 9 new cases for 1,494 total.
 

Exact locations of where vaccines will be administered are not being disclosed.

There is no waiting list being prepared for the general public. The public will be told when and how it can be vaccinated as that information becomes available, said Joy Prudek, public relations manager for St. Luke’s Wood River.

Milner and a couple assistants met their initial shipment on arrival while a district health member ascertained that the seal on the package was unbroken and the packaging in good shape. They then wheeled the 70-pound package, which boasted 50 pounds of tubular ice pellets the size of Gummi Bears, on a winding journey through hospital halls to a recently purchased freezer that can store the vaccine at temperatures of -79 and below.

Milner donned special leather gloves to lift the top layer of dry ice out of the container while an aide, who had donned gloves that she wiped with hand sanitizer, extracted the tightly packed box holding the vials.  Included in the container was a COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Kit that included syringes, alcohol wipes, safety glide needles, sodium chloride and government vaccine cards.

Two quick snapshots, and aides closed an interior and exterior door on the freezer.

“This is crazy,” Milner said. “I never in my life…”

Milner said he expects to get another shipment of 975 doses on Thursday. Originally, the hospital had planned on holding back doses from its first shipment to ensure that those getting their doses this coming week would have the necessary second dose 21 to 28 days from now.

But they learned that second doses will be shipped in January so they’ll be able to use Thursday’s shipment right away.

“The only thing uncertain is whether we get shipment every week or not,” he said, adding that he anticipates the shipments will become routine.

Milner added that if the hospital does get doses of the Moderna vaccine, which is expected to be approved this week, the number of doses will be smaller.

A team of hospital workers has identified who will get the vaccine first. The first tier includes doctors, nurses and housekeepers who work with COVID patients or perform duties in high-risk areas.

 “I know Idaho is hoping for other allocations. We’re still waiting to hear what the next few week's allocations will be. And I anticipate that we’ll probably get another shipment that will have two trays in there in the next few weeks. At least we hope,” Milner said.

Dr. Sky Blue, an infectious disease expert working in Boise, said that the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine has been very promising. There have been no significant serious events that were different in vaccinated arms than placebo arms.

Although there is limited data on pregnant and lactating women, the data researchers indicates there is no reason to believe there would be any problems.

The vaccine does react when you get the injection—and that’s necessary to get the level of effectiveness you need, he added.

“Some soreness in your arm. You may have a little bit of swelling, you may have the local lymph nodes under your arm that might get swollen, and you might have a little bit of fatigue and even a low-grade temperature. In the clinical trials, we have not seen any serious adverse events that we would see in any higher rates than we would expect with that number of individuals to begin with.” He said.

THE COVID-19 vaccine is the first messenger RNA vaccine in wide use so researchers don’t know everything, he added. It will be monitored up to two years before the Food and Drug Administration is likely to authorize full license of the vaccine.

Blue said he feels a duty to step up and put his arm forward to receive the vaccine.

 “Everybody was appropriately hesitant when we had a project called Operation Warp Speed,” he said “I kind of look at it as my duty to be one of the first people stepping forward with my arm saying, ‘I trust what I have reviewed in the science. I trust the technology as it comes to fruition and I’m certainly able to put my arm forward and be that example.”

VACCINE GROUP TO MEET FRIDAY

Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee will vote Friday on which subgroups in the priority populations should receive the vaccine next. They will also see a presentation on vaccine safety and effectiveness and presentations from the local public health districts about their plans for the vaccine. The public can view the meeting at https://idhw.webex.com/idhw/onstage/g.php?MTID=edd9db00b80711fbcc7a8b77f04e25cfb

 

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