From the freezer to your arm: a look at the COVID-19 vaccine process

Published: Jan. 26, 2021 at 5:33 PM EST
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OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - The number of people in Florida to receive the COVID-19 vaccine has now exceeded more than 1.2 million people.

There’s a sense of urgency for nurses when administering the vaccine, as it’s not an easy task.

It starts when the facility receives the Pfizer vaccine and stores it away in an ‘ultra-low’ freezer, which is kept between 60 and 80 degrees below zero.

“For the Pfizer vaccine, the handling of the vaccine itself is pretty strenuous. We have to adhere to some very strict guidelines on the transportation of the vaccine, on the storage of it, the mixing,” Vaccine Coordinator at the Heart of Florida Health Center, Levonda Goodson said.

The vaccine can be stored in the freezer for up to six months, and five days in the refrigerator, before it essentially ‘goes bad’.

It can not be re-frozen.

Once it comes out of the freezer, it needs to thaw, which can take up to two hours in the refrigerator, or about 30 minutes at room temperature.

Then it’s on to mixing the vaccine.

“What I’m doing right now is withdrawing air from the bottle, so that it takes the pressure off so we don’t waste anything that is inside of the bottle,” Goodson said while mixing the vaccine.

And they only have a few hours to use the vaccine once thawed and mixed.

“What I’m doing right now is writing the time that this bottle was mixed, so we’ll know that we have six hours that we can use this,” Goodson said, dating the vial.

Once all of that is done, it’s time to go into a patient’s arm, and they strive to get the vaccine to as many people as they can. “

What we usually do because we do have folks that don’t show up for one reason or another, whatever the case may be we typically try to reach out to patients who are in need of this vaccine. Typically we have patients that come in who have been waiting that we’re able to administer the vaccine to, it’s a very precious commodity if you will and so we don’t waste it,” Goodson said.

Goodson also told TV20 about the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. She said the Moderna vaccine is easier to store, as they can just keep it in the refrigerator. The Moderna vaccine will last up to 30 days.

So from the freezer to your arm, a precious dose full of hope is given to save a precious life.

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