Marian Hospital Pharmacy Employees Prepare COVID-19 Vaccine for Thousands of People | Local News

Sydney Asencio painstakingly prepared to enter a lab that is no bigger than a prison cell, first putting slippers on her shoes, pulling on 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 the equipment and surrounding surfaces with disinfectant, then began to fill each syringe with a small amount of saline solution before dipping the needle into the vial and withdrawing a small amount of the vaccine, ” liquid gold ”, before closing the syringe. has lost count of how many doses she has prepared, but the process, she said, is already like second nature.

“It’s pretty peaceful,” Asencio said. “I don’t care about the repetitiveness of this one. It’s quite nice to do your job and not be interrupted. “

Doctors and nurses are usually the ones pictured administering the coronavirus vaccine, but employees at Marian Pharmacy have worked behind the scenes in a team effort to ensure there is an adequate supply.

“Every day that we do this is our way out of the pandemic,” said Marissa A., a pharmacist who worked for Marian for almost eight years and took on the role of vaccine coordinator. She preferred not to give her last name for security reasons.

His leadership in the hospital’s vaccination operation earned his Employee of the Month recognition and respect from his colleagues.

Efforts to acquire the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine began with an application 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, director of Marian’s pharmacy.

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 for five days when taken out and placed in the refrigerator. It only lasts two hours, however, once taken out of the refrigerator. Once mixed, the vaccine lasts up to six hours. Each step is time stamped down to the minute.

The Moderna vaccine, which the hospital first received in January, is not as volatile and does not require ultra-low temperatures like Pfizer’s, according to Beck.

Start of preparation

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Marissa pulled out 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 begin their vaccine preparation from 5 a.m. and stagger doses throughout the afternoon to ensure that no dose is wasted. The vials contain up to six doses of 0.3 milliliters each.

“It’s kind of a balancing act,” Beck said. “We don’t want to have too much and not have an arm to put [the vaccines] in.”

During Asencio’s dressing process, which takes place in a separate room connected to the lab, she has to follow a specific order, first putting on the slippers one by one. A red line marks a line 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 have to be careful not to spill any vaccine. “

Once prepared, a runner gathers and transports the lot to a group of tents in a parking lot several hundred yards away, where dozens of elderly people waited 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,” said Marissa. “When I took on the role of vaccine coordinator, I didn’t know what to expect. I think no one did.

More than 240 Lompoc FCC inmates vaccinated against COVID-19

Receive a dose

Franco Colantino, 70, is a retired software / technology consultant in Santa Maria who received his first dose of Pfizer vaccine on Friday. Her second dose is scheduled for March. His wife has not yet been 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 through the Santa Maria Valley, an activity he does every two days. He is optimistic about the vaccine, but takes a wait-and-see approach.

“Life is good, but a little boring. But it’s good, especially in this area, ”said Colantino.

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