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‘Historic moment’: St. Charles Bend receives first 975 doses of COVID-19 vaccine

(Update: Adding video)

Stored in ultra-cold freezer; caregivers to start receiving their first dose on Monday

 BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Right on schedule, St. Charles Bend on Thursday morning received its first 975 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

At 10:25 a.m. a FedEx truck special-delivered its only cargo — a single temperature-controlled box of 975 doses — to the St. Charles Bend loading dock, where Debra Carlson, an inventory coordinator for the hospital’s inpatient pharmacy, officially received it, the hospital said in a news release.

“This is a historic moment,” said Joe Sluka, president and CEO of St. Charles Heath System. “In the same year a global pandemic landed in the United States, the scientific community delivered a vaccine. It’s a remarkable achievement that gives us hope as we continue to battle this virus and try to return our world to some version of normal.”

Carlson, who donned safety goggles and a special pair of thick gloves designed to protect her hands, helped transport the box back to the inpatient pharmacy, where the doses were carefully unpacked and placed in an ultra-cold temperature freezer capable of storing them at -70 degrees Centigrade (-94 Fahrenheit).

The vaccines will remain in the freezer until Monday morning, when the pharmacy team will begin dethawing and diluting individual doses in preparation for administering them to the first group of caregivers at noon. It is expected all 975 doses will be dispersed by the end of Wednesday.

In the meantime, St. Charles caregivers who are eligible for vaccination are receiving notifications via text and email, with information about when they are scheduled to receive their first dose.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is administered in two doses 21 days apart, so only after receiving a second dose three weeks out will they be considered fully vaccinated.

So how is the line formed for frontline workers to receive the vaccine?

Dr. Cynthia Maree says they do not have a firm plan in place just yet, but they want to ensure every employee is taken care of.

"We're really trying to use the state's guidance, and other agencies guidance on how to form that," Maree said. "We've been looking at our caregivers that have the most exposure in the workplace and particularly those with unexpected exposures."

Saint Charles does admit that not every employee is rushing to get in line for the vaccine, as some await more information.

The vaccine arrives on a day when St. Charles Bend has 50 inpatients with COVID-19, four of whom are in the intensive care unit and two of whom are on ventilators. The health system continues to postpone some elective surgeries to free up the staff and beds needed to care for the highest need patients.

“This year has been a difficult year for all of us, and the fight is not over yet,” said Dr. Jeff Absalon, St. Charles’ chief physician executive. “The stress on our health system continues to be very real. On Tuesday, every one of our ICU beds were full. While today is certainly one to be celebrated, we must acknowledge the difficult road still ahead of us and continue to be vigilant in halting the spread of the virus.”

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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