Minnesota hospitals prepare to receive first doses of COVID-19 vaccine

An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

In the coming days, Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine will arrive at various locations across the country including Minnesota. First up to get it are healthcare workers and those in long-term care facilities.

Those who have been waiting for this vaccine are calling it a historic day as the FDA and an advisory panel to the CDC both sign off on the emergency-use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID 19 vaccine. Hospitals are prepping to have the first shipments arrive in Minnesota this week.

"It’s a historic day, it really is," said Patsy Stinchfield, a nurse practitioner at Children’s Minnesota. "It’s so exciting, yesterday the FDA approval and then today the CDC ACIP approval for what is going to be our path out of this pandemic."

Pfizer says the vaccine is approved for those 16 years of age and older and will need to be administered in a series of two doses, three weeks apart. Some states could receive their shipments as soon as Monday. The vaccines will be packed in dry ice with GPS sensors.

"We’re expecting to receive the vaccine sometime next week and we’ll have more updates basically by the minute when that is actually going to arrive, so that’s exciting," said Paul Krogh with North Memorial Health.

In Minnesota, the vaccine will be shipped directly to providers in a "hub and spokes" model. The "hubs" are key hospitals that will then ship out to the "spokes" to smaller clinics around the state. North Memorial is expecting about 3,000 doses in the coming week and the vaccines will be stored with tight security.

"We are behind locked doors so the pharmacy is a pretty safe place to store it... we are putting our freezers in there," said Krogh.

The special freezers will keep the vaccines at sub-zero temperatures, and specialized training is planned for next week with the first vaccines being administered on December 21.

"This however is the next big chapter vaccinations, so first we needed the vaccine, we needed it to be safe, we needed it to work well and thankfully we are there," said Stinchfield.

This whole process will play about again later this week. The FDA advisory panel will meet on Thursday to talk about Moderna's COVID vaccine.