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Wood County lays out plan for quick distribution of COVID-19 vaccine

Should it be needed, the county is working at establishing an agreement with partners who have ultra cold storage for the Pfizer vaccine.

WOOD COUNTY, Ohio — Wood County health officials are explaining how they would store and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, once it's on the market.

The Wood County Health Department currently has regular freezers that can store the Moderna vaccine. Moderna said its vaccine is 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data from the company's ongoing study.

Pfizer, Modern's competitor, announced its own COVID-19 vaccine appeared similarly effective — news that puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the U.S.

The more challenging Pfizer vaccine needs to be kept extremely cold and in ultra cold storage that would allow the county to keep the vaccine for an extended period of time. The county doesn't have this kind of storage so they plan to transfer the Pfizer vaccine from its shipping container into a standard fridge where it can thaw and be administered quickly. 

"Our expectation is if we have things lined up and the allocations are what we anticipate, then we'll be able to move the vaccine shortly after it thaws and try to get it moved out of our hands within five days in the intended arms of the recipient," said Wood County Health Commissioner Ben Robison.

Robison added they're already pursuing contracts with dry ice vendors so they can refresh the dry ice in the shipping containers to extend the life of the vaccine doses another five days, which they can do up to two times.

Should it be needed, the county is working at establishing an agreement with partners who do have ultra cold storage such as Bowling Green State University and Wood County Hospital. 

As a final option, they're also considering leasing or acquiring ultra cold freezers themselves. They're currently in the process of finding out how much each costs. 

First responders, doctors and nurses, and the most vulnerable population would be prioritized, but once the vaccine is available to the general public, the county intends to have a drive-thru vaccination option available. 

"We're interested in trying to deliver the vaccine through partnerships with Meals on Wheels that may reach some our targeted populations directly," Robison said. "Partnering with them and providing a nurse who can provide a vaccine would be one key strategy that we're working through right now." 

The department is also reaching out to various vaccine providers in the healthcare community, school nurses, first responders, and university nursing programs to see who can administer the vaccine. 

Robison hopes the community feels encouraged and comfortable with getting the vaccine. 

Still, if the Food and Drug Administration allows emergency use of Moderna's or Pfizer's candidates, there will be limited, rationed supplies before the end of the year. Both require people to get two shots, several weeks apart. Moderna expects to have about 20 million doses, earmarked for the U.S., by the end of 2020. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech expect to have about 50 million doses globally by year's end.

The pandemic has killed more than 1.3 million people worldwide, more than 245,000 of them in the U.S.