State plans to supply smaller and rural hospitals with Moderna vaccine if approved

Updated: Dec. 15, 2020 at 10:01 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - State Health Leaders are working out the logistics of getting the COVID-19 vaccine to hospitals across the state.

Alabama Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said if the Moderna Vaccine gets approved later this week by the FDA, then the state plans to give it to the smaller and rural hospitals.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has to stay extra cold and not every Alabama hospital has a freezer to store it, meaning they didn’t get any of the 40 thousand doses in this first round of shipments.

“The issue had to do with which hospitals let us know that they had cold storage capabilities,” Alabama Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said.

Only 15 hospitals across the state have doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, but Harris said it’s not just storage that plays a factor.

“The Pfizer product not only needs that cold chain requirement, but it also comes in a minimum allotment of almost 1,000 doses,” Harris said. “Once you open that cold pack up and start giving the vaccine, you have a limited time to do that.”

Harris said not all smaller hospitals could administer that many doses fast enough.

“There were some hospitals in smaller areas or more rural areas that might have been able to store something at -80 degrees, but they wouldn’t have been able to administer almost 1,000 shots in the time that they had available,” Harris said.

There is a plan for the rural and smaller hospitals.

“The Moderna product that we think will come next week gives us a lot more flexibility,” Harris said. “It doesn’t have nearly so exact cold chain requirements and also comes in a minimum size of 100 doses.”

The FDA is meeting Thursday to evaluate the Moderna vaccine. It could be approved for emergency authorization as early as Friday. Harris said that will mean vaccines for more than 50 additional Alabama hospitals.

“We actually have around 60 to 65 sites that will be receiving that product next week assuming that everything goes as we expect with the FDA,” Harris said.

Harris said the state is also planning to give around 40 county health departments doses of Moderna’s vaccine next week, if it’s approved by the FDA.

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