Tampa General Hospital prepares to accept the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine

Dec. 14, 2020

Tampa General Hospital (TGH) reported that they have been chosen as one of five hospitals to participate in the Florida’s pilot program for the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine because of the large population TGH serves and its ability to maintain ultra-cold storage of the vaccine. 

TGH is expecting to receive doses of the Pfizer two-dose COVID-19 vaccine sometime this week or next as part of the state's pilot program to fight the global coronavirus.  The hospital has assembled an internal task force committee of experts to develop the process for vaccine distribution in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations. The initial shipment of vaccine for this pilot program will be distributed to healthcare workers battling COVID-19 on the front lines. Guidance by the CDC indicates community access to the vaccine will be available around the spring of 2021 depending on vaccine production levels.  

In the initial phase and in accordance with federal guidelines, the COVID-19 vaccine stored at TGH will only be available to TGH physicians and staff at greatest risk for exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. If the vaccine supply received allows for it, once the initial group of TGH workers have begun to receive the vaccination, TGH will supply partner hospitals – AdventHealth, BayCare, Bayfront, HCA and Moffitt – with the vaccine for their first phase group of healthcare workers. 

The Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold storage (-80 degrees Celsius/-112 degrees Fahrenheit) to maintain maximum effectiveness. TGH's pharmacy currently utilizes three freezers, allowing TGH to safely store a total of 510,000 doses of the vaccine at once. The freezers at TGH also produce dry ice which will be essential for transporting the vaccine safely when needed. Once the vial is removed from the freezer, the vaccine is stable for five days in the pharmacy refrigerator. To become injectable, it is mixed with a diluent that requires the vaccine to be used within six hours. To maximize this usage, there will be no "on demand” vaccinations – the administering of the vaccines will be scheduled.    

TGH will not act as a vaccine distribution site to the community in this initial phase as directed by the CDC. To support the needs of the local nursing homes and long-term care facilities, the state has contracted with both CVS and Walgreens to administer vaccinations to those patients as well as the healthcare workers who provide their direct patient care. 

The second phase of vaccinations is expected to begin in early 2021 and, if supply is sufficient, will apply to:   

·         Additional TGH physicians or healthcare workers in direct patient care

·         Persons over 65 with underlying health conditions

·         First responders

·         Law enforcement

·         Essential workers including teachers, childcare providers, and food distribution employees 

As supply increases, vaccinations will become more widely available allowing TGH to provide vaccinations to all TGH team members, patients, and other members of the public in accordance with CDC guidelines. Eventually, TGH will support 21 locations in the community to serve as general immunization sites. The timeline for this stage of availability is not known at this point but TGH is committed to keeping the community informed. 

It is expected that the number of COVID-19 cases will continue to rise, potentially to yet unseen levels, in December and into the new year. Although the promise of the vaccine is undeniable, it will take months to vaccinate everyone in the community. 

Tampa General has the release

More COVID-19 coverage HERE.