Ochsner Health readies for Pfizer vaccine
BATON ROUGE - As soon as Monday, 9,375 doses of the Pfizer Biontech vaccine will be arriving in Louisiana for Ochsner Health. More than half of those doses are coming to the Baton Rouge hub on Jefferson Highway and will be deployed from there.
The doses will be transferred to an ultra-cold freezer and, based on schedules of who is getting the drug, will be taken out and either thawed and administered or put into cold storage. Once the vaccine is taken out of the ultra-cold freezer, Ochsner has five days to administer them. The first doses are reserved for health care personnel.
"We have tiered our vaccines based on the risk of exposure, not the health condition of individual employees," Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control Sandra Kemmerly said.
The vaccine will first be distributed to people working in the COVID-19 units, emergency, and Urgent Care. Ochsner Health anticipates it will take a few shipments to get all of its front line workers vaccinated. Ochsner Health says it is not making the vaccine mandatory for employees, but it is being recommended.
"Everyone understands that this is not going away. So the quickest way to get through this is to get vaccinated," Chief Medical Officer Robert Hart said.
Louisiana will get new shipments of the Pfizer vaccine weekly. It's anticipated that after health care workers, the vaccine will go to people living in long-term care facilities.
"We're anticipating that patient vaccinations will probably be made available in January and through the spring," Kemmerly said.
The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is administered 21 days after the first dose.
"The data is that it's 95-percent effective from preventing you from developing symptomatic COVID seven days after the second dose," Chief Academic Officer Leonardo Seoane said.
Through the trial, reported side effects from the vaccine were found to be minor as anticipated with any vaccine.
"Arm pain, a little bit of a low-grade fever and fatigue, and those are usually short-lived 24-48 hours after the vaccine is given. And that's a normal response once we get vaccines," System Medical Director of Hospital Quality Katherine Baumgarten said.
Ochsner Health says if someone has had COVID-19 in the last three months, it's suggested that they hold off getting the vaccine since people develop natural immunity. It also says that just because you get the vaccine doesn't mean you should stop practicing proper safety guidelines including wearing a mask, washing your hands and social distancing.
The vaccine was not studied in pregnant or lactating women, and until that study is done there will not be data on those populations. Generally speaking, Ochsner Health thinks it is safe for pregnant or lactating women to receive the vaccine. There is also no data on whether people will need to receive another COVID vaccine in the future. Specialists do believe that because the vaccine is so effective, the immunity will last, but they don't know for sure.
Currently, 12 to 15-year-olds are being enrolled in a vaccine trial.