SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - A history-making moment came in the form of a UPS delivery Tuesday morning (Dec. 15), as Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine was delivered to Ochsner-LSU Health Shreveport.
The urgent drop-off came at 8:15 a.m.
“This is an exciting day, it’s something people have been working towards for months and months now,” said Jason Lafitte, assistant vice president for pharmacy services at Ochsner-LSU Health Shreveport. “This is a huge effort, hundreds of people are involved in something as simple as giving an immunization.”
1,325 doses was allocated to the Shreveport hospital, but Lafitte says weekly shipments of the vaccine can be expected going forward.
“We’re making sure our employees who are at highest risk for exposure to COVID positive patients are the ones who have first access to the vaccine,” added Lafitte. “We’ve worked really hard internally to find out who those stakeholders are.”
Since the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine requires two doses administered three weeks apart, Lafitte hopes hospital employees who want the first dose can receive one before the end of 2020.
“Today is a very exciting day because after months of work we finally have the first vaccine today against the COVID-19 virus. It is going to be in limited supply. As you know there has been a lot of work done to get this FDA approved and move it through the process in a safe fashion so that we are ready to being to immunize all of the people in our country. But, here in Louisiana we’re excited to get started today. There will be a limited supply initially, from Pfizer, as they have begun to produce this, but we will be getting more supplies over time. We were happy to get some of the first doses here at Ochsner Medical Center here in Louisiana,” said Dr. Robert Hart, chief medical officer at Ochsner Health.
“It’s a tiered approach to make sure we’re rolling it out in order of priority and risk,” Lafitte noted.
Meanwhile, bio-technology company, Moderna’s, COVID-19 vaccine, which could receive emergency use authorization from the FDA before the end of December, is unlikely to land at Ochsner-LSU Health, Lafitte explains.
Unlike Pfizer’s vaccine, which is required to be stored at deep sub-zero temperatures, Moderna’s vaccine can be shelved at temperatures between 36° and 46° for 30 days.
“Moderna really is primarily going to go to rehab centers, long-term acute cares, nursing homes, things of that nature,” said Lafitte.
Tuesday afternoon, Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins and Dr. Davis Lewis, chief medical officer for Ochsner-LSU Health Shreveport, will hold a news conference to address the vaccine’s arrival in northwest Louisiana and its promise in the fight against COVID-19.
That news conference begins at 3:30 p.m.
Employees at Ochsner will not be required to be vaccinated, but it is encouraged.
“At Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport, we highly encourage widespread vaccination. With a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines at this time, we will follow CDC and state guidelines offering it to those at highest risk first—including our team on the frontlines of this pandemic. As COVID-19 cases continue to increase, we remain dependent on the community to maintain social distancing, masking, and hygiene guidelines to protect themselves and others,” said Dr. David Lewis, chief medical officer for Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport.
“It is gratifying to see LSU Health Shreveport’s contributions to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine through licensing of a LSUHS patent to BioNTech for mRNA-stabilizing cap analogs and in serving as the only north Louisiana vaccine trial site. Additionally our numerous COVID-19 clinical trials are providing access to novel therapies reflecting the benefit of having an academic medical center in our community,” shared GE Ghali, DDS, MD, FACS, FRCS (Ed), chancellor of LSU Health Shreveport.