DALLAS (NewsNation Now) — We are just days away from certain Americans receiving the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, in the wake of the U.S. FDA authorizing the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for emergency use Friday night. Leading up to its widespread distribution, hospitals and healthcare workers have been practicing dry runs for dissemination.
“We really want to treat this vaccine as the liquid gold that it is because it’s really the only tool that we have in our toolbox to cure this disease,” said Susan Mashni, the vice president of pharmacy for Mount Sinai Health System.
It’s the countdown to a treatment that has been ticking for months. Americans have been eager to know when the first COVID-19 vaccine would roll out. Despite the uncertainty of when that day might come, hospitals have been practicing anyway for its impending distribution.
“Not a lot of people have vaccinated for a large pandemic like this,” said Mashni. “The last time we did anything like this was for H1N1. So, we want to make certain that we get it right.”
Frontline workers inside New York hospitals are currently experimenting with best practices. From delivery and circulation to timing and storage.
“We are working to set everything up so that we’re ready to go as soon as the local and federal authorities give us the go ahead,” said Dr. Ania Wajberg, a physician at Mount Sinai Health System.
Refrigeration is also vital. The sub-zero units used for storage need to be about 80 degrees below zero to effectively store the vaccine. Hospitals are now conducting eleventh-hour checks to make sure their freezers are in working order.
“We get it here in the pharmacy, we have to empty the box within 90 seconds and open the freezer,” said Vivian Leonard, director of pharmacy for Mount Sinai Health System.
Some states like Arizona are simulating what the drive-through process will look like when patients are able to receive the vaccine. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott says his hospitals and clinics are ready and waiting on standby for their shipments.
“We have more than 7,200 providers already lined up across the entire state of Texas that are already lined up just waiting to receive these vaccines,” said Governor Abbott.
For those on the frontlines, every day of rehearsal counts, because when “V-Day” comes, mistakes will be costly.
“If something goes wrong, it’s not an easy replace,” Leonard said. “Other times we’ve had freezers or refrigerators that don’t work, we can replace the drug—in this case, we cant.”
Healthcare workers and nursing home residents will be among the first Americans to receive the initial round of COVID vaccines. Several frontline workers have told NewsNation that they will be practicing these dry runs until it’s time to switch to offense.