COVID-19 vaccines arrive in Whitman County

WSU will store vaccines in ultra-cold freezers; 975 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines arrived today

The+county+will+distribute+the+vaccinations+in+phases%2C+starting+with+Phase+1a.+This+includes+high-risk+workers+and+first+responders%2C+as+well+as+those+who+work+and+reside+in+long-term+care+facilities.

COURTESY OF ROBERT HUBNER, WSU PHOTO SERVICES

The county will distribute the vaccinations in phases, starting with Phase 1a. This includes high-risk workers and first responders, as well as those who work and reside in long-term care facilities.

ANGELICA RELENTE, Evergreen reporter

One WSU official says now is the time to “double down” on COVID-19 protective measures, as Whitman County received its first shipment of vaccines today.

“We can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Phil Weiler, WSU vice president of marketing and communications. “Let’s not blow it now.”

The initial shipment has 975 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, according to a press release from the Whitman County Public Health. The county will distribute the vaccinations in phases, starting with Phase 1a under the Washington State Department of Health guidelines. 

Individuals who fall under Phase 1a include high-risk workers and first responders, as well as those who work and reside in long-term care facilities, according to WSDH guidelines.

The vaccines will be stored in ultra-cold freezers at WSU, according to a press release. Ultra-cold freezers can maintain the temperature at -80 degrees Celsius, which is the temperature needed for the vaccines.

The first batch will likely be distributed as soon as it arrives, Weiler said. As of now, groups like Palouse Medical have the authorization to administer the vaccine, which will likely change as time progresses.

“Over time, we fully expect … that eventually Cougar Health Services … will be able to administer the vaccine and do a mass vaccination program on campus,” Weiler said.

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 is a two-dose vaccine, according to WSDH. The second shot will follow 21 days after the first shot. A COVID-19 infection can be prevented seven days after the second dose, according to clinical trial data. Individuals are not fully protected until one to two weeks have passed. 

The federal government allotted about 62,000 Pfizer doses to Washington for the first round, according to a WSDH press release. By the end of this month, Washington is expected to receive a total of approximately 222,000 Pfizer doses. Regular weekly shipments are expected to begin by January.

If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves emergency use authorization of the Moderna vaccine, about 183,000 doses of that vaccine are expected in Washington by late December as well, according to WSDH.