UC Davis Health is prepared to receive Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine


UC Davis Health is expected to receive its first allotment of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines as early as Monday. 

Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participant Marites Ramos receives an injection at UC Davis Health when the study began in August
Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participant Marites Ramos receives an injection at UC Davis Health when the study began in August

When the vaccine vials arrive, safely packaged with dry ice inside 16x16x24-inch cardboard shipping boxes, they will be transported to a secure freezer for storage. We will then continue to follow state guidelines and begin inoculating a limited number of UC Davis Medical Center employees. 

UC Davis Health has not been told how much vaccine will be delivered in this first shipment, or exactly when it will arrive. 

UC Davis Health is among at least seven hospitals in California scheduled to receive the first allotment. Hospitals were selected by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) for their storage capability, highest-risk health care population and ability to distribute vaccine in the community when it becomes widely available. 

A working group from UC Davis Health has spent several weeks developing tiers to determine an equitable process for vaccine administration for employees who choose to be inoculated. Under this tiered approach, staff and employee vaccinations will be based on the risk of COVID-19 infection associated with the work functions being performed. 

In the Emergency Department, for example, custodial workers, physicians, nurses, first responders and clerks are among the job classifications included in the top tier for vaccination priority. We are prepared to inoculate up to 400 employees per day, depending on the availability of supplies and other factors. 

As vaccines from other manufacturers become available, we will continue to inoculate employees in the priority tiers of those who are most at risk. The CDPH is estimating that vaccination for the general public could begin in the Spring.  

UC Davis Health has ample storage for vaccines for the first allotment, and more space is on the way. 

The medical center’s designated storage space for the Pfizer vaccine includes a freezer that is similar in size to a large residential refrigerator/freezer, and can hold vials containing 150,000 doses. Each 2ml. vial holds five doses of vaccine, which must be reconstituted and administered within 48 hours of being thawed. 

The vaccines are being transported from a Pfizer distribution center to Sacramento in specially designed, temperature-controlled thermal shippers utilizing dry ice to maintain recommended storage temperature conditions of -70°C ± 10°C for up to 10 days unopened. They will be transferred to the UC Davis Health freezers, which are capable of maintaining a temperature of -80°C (-112°F) 

With additional freezers expected to be delivered in the coming weeks, UC Davis Health could potentially store about 400,000 vaccines at a time. 

UC Davis and UC Davis Health have been national leaders in diagnosing, treating and researching the coronavirus. UC Davis Health is one of just 150 sites worldwide that is participating in the clinical trial for the Pfizer vaccine that will soon be available. More than 40,000 participants are included in the study, including 225 at UC Davis Health.

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