ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After drug company Pfizer offered some hope that a vaccine for COVID-19 could be ready sooner than we thought, the next step would be distributing it. So how is the state preparing and what are some concerns?
When that time comes and a COVID-19 vaccine is ready to go, New Mexico has a preliminary plan of action on how to distribute it. It’s all laid out in a 61-page document. They expect they’ll have a limited amount of the vaccine at first, so they’ll focus on the frontline healthcare workers and those in long-term care facilities.
And to track inventory and who’s received the vaccine, the state is planning to use multiple reporting systems that hundreds of healthcare providers already use to document the COVID-19 vaccine circulation.
But then there’s the issue of storage, which the state expects the vaccine will need to be kept in very cold units. “Basically minus 80 degrees Celsius which is 94 degrees below zero Fahrenheit,” said Paul Ostrowski, who works with the government’s Operation Warp Speed.
The state’s plan said the biggest concern for storage are rural areas because they might not have access to ultra-cold storage supplies, like dry ice. To remedy that could be costly. So now, New Mexico is using this survey to look into their statewide refrigeration capacity for hospitals and healthcare facilities to get a better idea of supply and access to freezers and refrigeration for multiple vaccine types.
But there is some reassurance. The state said they will be able to count on temporary thermal shippers provided by Pfizer to safely store the vaccine at the proper temperature and they’ve already identified several areas across the state that have ultra-cold freezer storage capacities which will help in dispersing the vaccine.
But one big question remains, how many doses of the vaccine will New Mexico get when it’s ready? The state still doesn’t know. CBS’s 60 Minutes recently went inside ‘Operation Warp Speed’ which is the military effort to get 300 million Americans vaccinated. But they haven’t given states any indication of how many doses they’ll each receive.
If the Pfizer vaccine is approved, it will require two separate shots 21 days apart. Operation Warp Speed is working on plans on how the feds will deliver both doses.