MISSOULA — The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of an emergency COVID-19 vaccine less than a week ago and it’s since made its way to Missoula County hospitals.
Call it a sigh of relief, or perhaps even a Christmas miracle, because the first shipment of a Coronavirus vaccine has arrived in Missoula, signifying a crucial turning point in the pandemic.
“It’s the best Christmas present ever,” said Community Medical Center Medical Specialist for COVID-19 Task Force Dr. Nicole Finke.
Per US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, their most at-risk caregivers will be the first vaccinated.
“We are tiering the process within our hospital starting with the caregivers who have the closest proximity and the greatest exposure to COVID patients starting with our ICU, our Emergency Room folks, people in our First care North clinics, anybody dealing with our Respiratory Illness, and our Outpatient lab,” Dr. Finke said.
But it’ll be a long road ahead considering the amount of doses necessary to vaccinate an entire hospital staff.
“Each vaccine tray held 95 vials each vial has five doses -- so a total of 975 doses,” explained CMC Director of Pharmacy and Vaccine Coordinator Kevin Cady, PharmD.
CMC has over 1,000 employees while Saint Patrick has over 2,000 employees -- not to mention, the Pfizer vaccine requires two doses.
CMC says they don’t know when they’ll get the next round of first doses, but those who have already been vaccinated won’t have to wait too long to receive their booster shots.
“We’ll get the second doses to go with the first doses the first week of January," Dr. Finks said.
Both hospitals will begin the vaccination process this Thursday, marking the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vaccines are expected to become available to the general public by late spring, early summer.