Island Hospital awaiting COVID-19 vaccine

An emergency surge tent is set up in front of Island Hospital's ER.

Island Hospital is preparing to receive its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine now that some doses have arrived in Skagit County, but the timing remains unclear.

The hospital has ordered a special deep freezer used to store the first approved vaccine, by Pfizer, but the freezer is back-ordered into February, CEO Charles Hall said.

That’s because the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at extremely low temperatures in a freezer that costs about $10,000.

Though the Pfizer vaccine can be temporarily stored with dry ice, Hall said that high demand could make it difficult to get enough dry ice.

“We are trying to diversify our approach for the long term on carrying the vaccine,” Hall said.

Meanwhile, the FDA approved a vaccine by Moderna on Friday, a vaccine that can be stored in the types of freezers most medical facilities already use.

Hall said it’s likely the hospital will receive the Moderna vaccine first.

Beyond getting the vaccine, Hall pointed out that it will take time for it to reach the general public.

“I believe that many folks are tuning in that the vaccine is coming but may not understand that it is a phased approach,” he said, noting that widespread vaccine distribution could take up to nine months.

Federal and state health agencies have set guidelines as to who qualifies for which phase of receiving the vaccine, Hall said.

“Internally, we are prioritizing the categories that have high exposure,” he said.

“How the distribution of these vaccines are selected (for) which facilities is not clearly known,” Hall said.

Meanwhile, Hall said people should not worry about getting a vaccine once it’s available.

“These vaccines are safe,” he said.

General side effects can include swelling and pain at the injection site as well as mild fatigue, fever and chills. These occur more on the second injection, which both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require.

“Those (side effects) are similar to the flu shot vaccine that we get every year,” he said.

Cases continue

Island Hospital has admitted one additional COVID-19 patient in the past week.

Ten tests came back positive at the hospital since Monday, Dec. 14, though some people may have been tested more than once.

“This last week has been steady and stable,” Hall said in an interview Friday. “We still do see a steady flow of outpatient, COVID-19 diagnosed patients.”

A dozen staff at the hospital have tested positive for the virus year to date, with five of those in December. The hospital has about 750 employees.

Hall reminded the public to continue to make safe decisions, including wearing a mask, social distance and avoid gatherings with people outside of your household, especially over the holidays.

Island Hospital is preparing to receive its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine now that some doses have arrived in Skagit County, but the timing remains unclear.

The hospital has ordered a special deep freezer used to store the first approved vaccine, by Pfizer, but the freezer is back-ordered into February, CEO Charles Hall said.

That’s because the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at extremely low temperatures in a freezer that costs about $10,000.

Though the Pfizer vaccine can be temporarily stored with dry ice, Hall said that high demand could make it difficult to get enough dry ice.

“We are trying to diversify our approach for the long term on carrying the vaccine,” Hall said.

Meanwhile, the FDA approved a vaccine by Moderna on Friday, a vaccine that can be stored in the types of freezers most medical facilities already use.

Hall said it’s likely the hospital will receive the Moderna vaccine first.

Beyond getting the vaccine, Hall pointed out that it will take time for it to reach the general public.

“I believe that many folks are tuning in that the vaccine is coming but may not understand that it is a phased approach,” he said, noting that widespread vaccine distribution could take up to nine months.

Federal and state health agencies have set guidelines as to who qualifies for which phase of receiving the vaccine, Hall said.

“Internally, we are prioritizing the categories that have high exposure,” he said.

“How the distribution of these vaccines are selected (for) which facilities is not clearly known,” Hall said.

Meanwhile, Hall said people should not worry about getting a vaccine once it’s available.

“These vaccines are safe,” he said.

General side effects can include swelling and pain at the injection site as well as mild fatigue, fever and chills. These occur more on the second injection, which both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require.

“Those (side effects) are similar to the flu shot vaccine that we get every year,” he said.

Cases continue

Island Hospital has admitted one additional COVID-19 patient in the past week.

Ten tests came back positive at the hospital since Monday, Dec. 14, though some people may have been tested more than once.

“This last week has been steady and stable,” Hall said in an interview Friday. “We still do see a steady flow of outpatient, COVID-19 diagnosed patients.”

A dozen staff at the hospital have tested positive for the virus year to date, with five of those in December. The hospital has about 750 employees.

Hall reminded the public to continue to make safe decisions, including wearing a mask, social distance and avoid gatherings with people outside of your household, especially over the holidays.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.