Marian Hospital Pharmacy Employees Prepare COVID-19 Vaccine for Thousands | Local News
Sydney Asencio painstakingly prepared to enter a lab no bigger than a prison cell, first pulling on slippers over her shoes, donning a hairnet and robe, then washing her hands and forearms for at least 30 seconds before putting on gloves.
A pharmacy technician at Marian Regional Medical Center, Asencio was preparing for the tedious and repetitive task of mixing and filling individual syringes with the COVID-19 vaccine for a three-day clinic that began Thursday to inoculate 3,600 adults aged 65. years and older.
She wiped down equipment and nearby surfaces with disinfectant, then began the process of filling each syringe with a small amount of saline solution before dipping the needle into the vial and withdrawing a small amount of vaccine, “liquid gold”, before plugging the syringe. lost count of how many doses she prepared, but the process, she says, is already like second nature.
“It’s pretty peaceful,” Asencio said. “I don’t care about the repetitiveness of this one. It’s kind of nice to do your job and not be interrupted.”
Doctors and nurses are usually the ones pictured in photographs administering the coronavirus vaccine, but Marian Pharmacy workers have been working behind the scenes in a team effort to ensure there is a sufficient supply.
“Every day we do this is our way out of the pandemic,” said Marissa A., a pharmacist who has worked for Marian for nearly eight years and who took on the role of vaccine coordinator. She preferred not to give her last name for security reasons.
Her leadership in the hospital’s vaccination operation earned her employee of the month the recognition and respect of her colleagues.
Efforts to acquire the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine began by applying for it in November, with the expectation that it would receive emergency use authorization on December 11. Because the vaccine requires cold storage, Marian ordered an ultra-low temperature freezer, which arrived the same day. before Thanksgiving, according to Jessica Beck, Marian’s pharmacy manager.
Vaccine preparation begins inside the freezer located in an undisclosed area of the hospital. Beck and Marissa don protective gear, including thick protective gloves, just to open the freezer, which sits at -110 degrees Fahrenheit and will cause instant frostbite if bare skin touches the inside.
The task requires two people for safety and security reasons, according to Beck.
The Pfizer vaccine, which the hospital first received in December, can be stored in the freezer for up to six months and lasts five days once removed and placed in the refrigerator. However, it only lasts two hours once taken out of the refrigerator. Once mixed, the vaccine lasts up to six hours. Each step is time-stamped to the nearest minute.
The Moderna vaccine, which the hospital first received in January, isn’t as volatile and doesn’t require ultra-low temperatures like Pfizer’s, according to Beck.
Start of preparation
Marissa removed 54 vaccine vials, placed them in a portable cooler, and carried them with Beck through a maze of multi-story hallways and elevators inside the hospital before arriving at the pharmacy.
Technicians start their preparation of vaccines from 5 a.m. and stagger the doses in the afternoon to ensure that no doses are wasted. The vials can hold up to six doses of 0.3 milliliters each.
“It’s kind of a balance,” Beck said. “We don’t want to have too many and not have weapons to put [the vaccines] in.”
During Asencio’s dressing process, which takes place in a separate room connected to the lab, she must follow a specific order, first putting on the slippers one at a time. A red line marks a boundary that a non-sterile employee cannot cross. Asencio crosses the red line one foot at a time after putting on slippers. She completes the dressing process before entering the room, where a second technician is usually already working.
“It was scary at first,” Asencio said. “You absolutely want to be careful not to spill a vaccine.”
Once prepared, a runner picks up and carries the batch to a group of tents in a parking lot several hundred yards away, where dozens of elderly people were waiting for their shots.
Each day, the pharmacy must record the number of doses prepared and administered, data which is transmitted to the state health authorities.
“It’s just numbers, all day,” Marissa said. “When I took on the role of vaccine coordinator, I didn’t know what to expect. I don’t think anyone did.
Receive a dose
Franco Colantino, 70, is a retired software/technology business consultant in Santa Maria who received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Friday. Her second dose is scheduled for March. His wife is not yet vaccinated because she is under 65 years old.
After the vaccine, Colantino hopes to visit his family in central Italy by the summer. In the meantime, he is content to cycle in the Santa Maria Valley, an activity he does every other day. He is optimistic about the vaccine, but takes a wait-and-see approach.
“Life is beautiful but a bit boring. But it’s good, especially in this area,” Colantino said.
Photos: Marian Hospital pharmacy workers prepare COVID-19 vaccine for thousands
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