Before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the vaccine on Friday, hospitals performed vaccination dry runs, checked backup power and temperature settings for freezers and rushed to decide who would get shots first.
To choreograph the vaccine’s arrival, hospitals have put employees on notice about the deliveries. Some staffers have hunted down photos of packaging to minimize the risk that boxes could be left unattended on loading docks, said Jessica Daley, a pharmacist and executive with Premier Inc., which contracts with pharmaceutical and other medical-supply manufacturers on behalf of hospitals.
“Everyone is very focused on ensuring that receipt of these products goes perfectly according to plan,” she said.
At Mass General Brigham, a pharmacist likely will be notified by courier of the vaccine’s arrival, said Paul Biddinger, the Boston-based hospital system’s medical director for emergency preparedness. Mass General Brigham will store its allotment in a central location before distributing it to a dozen sites, using bar codes to track deliveries.
There are exacting procedures for retrieving the vials for vaccinations. Pfizer’s containers can be opened only twice a day, and can’t stay open for more than three minutes at a time, Dr. Daley said. Smaller boxes with trays of vials can be opened for no more than three minutes, and they can’t be outside ultracold temperatures more than once every two hours.