S.C. rural hospitals to give COVID-19 vaccine despite a lack of ultracold storage

Most rural hospitals do not have the ultracold storage containers needed to store the Pfizer...
Most rural hospitals do not have the ultracold storage containers needed to store the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine so they have to order the vaccine is smaller quantities.(Source: Pfizer)
Updated: Dec. 18, 2020 at 7:06 PM EST
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COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - This week, most hospitals in South Carolina began administering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to their healthcare workers. However, one challenge that comes with this vaccine is that it requires ultracold storage around -94 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We knew who had ultracold storage and who didn’t. Most rural hospitals do not have that capability,” Dr. Greg Barabell, South Carolina Office of Rural Health’s medical consultant, said.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is in charge of distributing the vaccine and worked with rural hospitals who don’t have the storage capability. For example, staff at Colleton Medical Center said while they don’t have those ultracold storage capabilities, they can still house the vaccine for a few days.

“Once you order the medication from DHEC, they send it in refrigerated containers. These refrigerated temperatures allow the vaccine to be stored for five days. So we have five days from receipt of product to use the vaccines,” Director of Pharmacy Dr. Michelle O’Quinn said. This is a little bit challenging because we’ve got to work quickly to get all those folks in and be vaccinated. But the good thing about it is we are able to order them in allocations that are smaller quantities, so we can cover our entire staff without having to order and use heavy duty refrigerators.”

Trident Medical Center in North Charleston is Colleton Medical Center’s sister hospital which does have the ultracold storage. If needed, they could share supplies.

Right now the plan is to order the vaccine in smaller amounts so there’s no need to use the ultracold storage.

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