First shipments of COVID-19 vaccine arrive in Vermont

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First shipments of COVID-19 vaccine arrive in Vermont

Mon, 12/14/2020 - 5:44pm -- tim

Wesley McMillian, Director of Pharmacy Services at the University of Vermont Medical Center prepares to unload the first shipment of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. He immediately put it into an ultra-cold refrigerator. The 975 doses were packed in dry ice. Courtesy images.

Vermont Business Magazine Governor Phil Scott today announced the arrival in Vermont of the first 1,950 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. This is the first portion of the 5,850 doses coming to Vermont this week. The State Vaccine Depot and the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington each received 975 doses at approximately 8 am today. The doses were sent as part of the initial nationwide shipments that followed the Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine issued by the FDA on December 12. 

“This is an important milestone and an essential step toward defeating a virus that’s devastated families and businesses throughout Vermont and around the globe,” said Governor Scott. “There is no better, safer or faster way to defeat this virus and work to rebuild our economy than a successful effort to make vaccines available to every single Vermonter. We are committed to working with our partners to get this done, so we can get through this and be stronger and more resilient than ever before.”

The Vermont Department of Health was allocated weekly shipments of 5,850 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine through December. On Tuesday, December 15, the Health Department will receive an additional 1,950 doses, and another 1,950 doses will ship later this week directly to pharmacies that have contracted with the federal government to administer vaccines at long-term care facilities. The Health Department, in coordination with the State Emergency Operations Center, will distribute vaccine to hospitals throughout the state.

“This is a pivotal moment, one that marks the beginning of the end of the pandemic,” said Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD. “As I’ve said before, however, this is just the start of a long process to receive and administer enough vaccine to bring COVID-19 under control. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of everyone keeping up their efforts to protect themselves and prevent spread of the virus. This is a time for great optimism and even greater vigilance to make it all happen.”

The initial doses are dedicated for use as the first of the two-dose regimen required. The manufacturer has reserved an equal number of the second dose, which will be shipped in the coming weeks. In addition, the Department has placed a pre-order for the Moderna vaccine, pending approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Vaccine orders will be placed on a weekly basis. Arrangements for additional doses after the New Year are being worked out. The number of vaccine doses each state receives is based on overall U.S. supply and state population.

“This is a big step forward in our ongoing pandemic response, and a critical new tool to protect our health care workers, patients and communities,” said Dr. John R. Brumsted, MD, President and CEO of the UVM Health Network. “While the arrival of the first vaccine offers a ray of hope, there is still much work to do. We will continue working with the State of Vermont to administer COVID-19 vaccines in a safe, effective and thoughtful manner. And we cannot allow the promise of these vaccines to distract us from continuing to do the things that have been proven to slow the growth of COVID-19 – masking, distancing and hand hygiene.”

Initial doses will go to the groups identified as priority populations in Phase 1a by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). These include high-risk health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. These priority populations were also recommended by Vermont’s COVID-19 Advisory Committee and approved by Health Commissioner Levine.

The Health Department will announce more information about vaccine availability as the next priority groups are determined. Dr. Levine affirmed that the State is committed to ensuring access across Vermont, and will work closely with the health care providers, pharmacies and others who will provide the vaccine to Vermonters: “We are working with community organizations and other partners to make sure people who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, including Black, Indigenous and people of color, have equitable access to the vaccine.” 

“We have been hoping and waiting for this historical moment where we have vaccine available for the most vulnerable members of our community and our frontline medical workers. I am beyond grateful that my team will soon have the opportunity to receive the vaccine so they are protected and can continue to safely care for all patients in our region,” said Kristin Baker, nurse manager at the UVM Medical Center Emergency Department. “We urge the public to remain vigilant while the vaccine is distributed because it will still be months before it is available widely to the public.”

A second vaccine manufactured by Moderna, Inc., may receive FDA approval later this week. Distribution of the Moderna vaccine would immediately follow. The UVM Health Network will continue to share information as we learn more about vaccinations at each affiliate.

Video from the UVM Health Network of the vaccine doses arriving this morning at UVM Medical Center can be found here.

Information about the vaccine, its distribution, and updates about getting vaccinated will be regularly updated at healthvermont.gov/covid-19/vaccine.

Source: Burlington, Vt. – Governor. Burlington. 12.14.2020