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Ochsner hospitals prepare to start rolling out COVID-19 vaccines

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BATON ROUGE - As a coronavirus vaccine awaits FDA approval, hospitals like Ochsner Health in Baton Rouge are preparing for proper storage.

However, health care workers say the ultra-cold freezers needed for Pfizer's vaccine are hard to come by. Luckily, one has already arrived at Ochsner's New Orleans location.

Heather Maturin is the Director of Pharmacy at Oschner Health. She says right now Ochsner has no ultra low freezers available in the Capital City.

"A lot of people are anticipating the product coming out," Maturin said. "As you can imagine, when there's high demand a lot of people are trying to purchase these freezers to be prepared for this vaccine."

Upon request, Pfizer vaccines will have to be transported from New Orleans to Oschner Hospitals in Baton Rouge. Then, the vaccine will be kept at normal refrigeration temperatures, but not for long.

"It goes directly to New Orleans. They will put it in their ultra low freezer. Then they will redistribute it to our other locations, like us in Baton Rouge, in a shipping container. Then, once we receive it, we'll take it and put it in the refrigerator where it's good for five days," Maturin said.

She says health care workers will be among the first to receive the vaccines.

"Our first group of people that we are going to vaccinate are our frontline COVID workers, who are taking care of the COVID patients, so we can make sure they're protected," Maturin said.

Health care experts say the first doses of the vaccine will likely be available to the general public in the second quarter of 2021.

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