Getting ready to immunize

St. Luke’s Medical Center in Fruitland, as seen on Monday. St. Luke’s Health System received its first shipment of 975 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday.

WESTERN TREASURE VALLEY — Anita Kissée, Public Relations Manager for St. Luke’s Health System. confirmed in an email to the newspaper on Tuesday that it had received its first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. 

“We received 195 vials which is 975 doses” with each vial holding five doses, said Kissée.

Kissée shared that employee vaccine administration is anticipated to begin within a week or so. She referred the newspaper’s questions to a frequently asked questions page on the St. Luke’s website.

“Pfizer is the only vaccine with an emergency use authorization recommendation,” according to a frequently asked questions website maintained for the vaccination program. “Vaccine is arriving Dec. 14 and 15, and later in the week. The first distribution is 13,650 doses. We expect to receive vaccine on a weekly basis.”

St. Luke’s is receiving two boxes which each have 975 doses out of the first allocation to Central District Health, according to the website. 

“Two trays will come to St. Luke’s, two will go to Saint Al’s and the other tray will go to other providers.”

Vaccines will be administered at no cost to patients. Health systems will be reimbursed by insurance plans and the federal government.

The website states that St. Luke’s will coordinate administration of vaccine to non-St. Luke’s entities beginning in phase two of rollout, but for now “there will be chances for these folks to be vaccinated at other sites during the initial roll out.”

The website goes on to explain that vaccination of frontline workers won’t be completed overnight.

“For employees, providers and staff, specific Employee Health, Occupational Health, and Travel Med clinics will be administering vaccinations over a period of four months (with the highest risk roles receiving the vaccine during the first two months). After staff have had the opportunity to be vaccinated, family members and patients will be able to receive the vaccine at select Primary Care clinics.”

It also explains that even if vaccinated, visits should be avoided to high-risk family members who have not had the opportunity to get the vaccine yet. Masks and social distancing are recommended even after vaccination, as health experts study how long immunity lasts in patients after receiving the vaccine.

Public health districts are partnering with local pharmacies and health care groups to give vaccines to other health care workers not employed under St. Like’s or Saint Al’s.

According to Kissée, employees at the Fruitland facility will need to travel to other St. Luke’s sites to receive the vaccine, due to the need for ultra cold storage. The Pfizer vaccine requires storage at minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 Fahrenheit).

A second vaccine candidate, from Moderna, is under regulatory review by the Food and Drug Administration. The Moderna Vaccine only requires storage at minus 20 degrees Celsius.

The federal government says it aims to distribute 300 million doses to states starting in January.

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