Henry Ford prepares to receive COVID-19 vaccine as approval nears

Henry Ford hospitals install refrigeration systems to store anticipated coronavirus vaccines

Victor McFadden, 64, of Detroit, is one of the first volunteers in Michigan to receive the first dose for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine study on Aug. 5, 2020. Photo provided by Henry Ford Health System. (WDIV)

Once a COVID-19 vaccine is approved, Henry Ford says it is prepared to receive and store the vaccine -- which requires storage at extremely low temperatures.

Drug companies Pfizer and Moderna have both developed promising COVID-19 vaccines that are nearing approval in the U.S. Both vaccines also require unique storage to maintain their potency and efficacy.

Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, which has shown to be 95% effective, reportedly requires storage of negative 94 degrees Fahrenheit. Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, shown to be nearly 95% effective, requires a storage temperature of negative four degrees Fahrenheit.

Read: How Henry Ford Hospital played key role in Moderna vaccine study

Henry Ford Health System officials say they have been preparing their facilities and operations since the summer to receive and install the specialized freezers needed to store the vaccines. According to officials, the refrigeration systems are available commercially, but are on back-order due to the many medical facilities trying to obtain them in anticipation for the vaccines.

“Since we saw this potential need a few months back, we put in our order and made a concerted effort to be very proactive by securing these super freezers early on,” said Ed Szandzik, Vice President of Pharmacy Operations at Henry Ford Health System.

So far, Henry Ford has begun installing 12 freezers: six that can appropriately store the Pfizer vaccine, and six that can appropriately store the Moderna vaccine. Officials say the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit will have two of each type of freezer installed. Henry Ford hospitals in Wyandotte, Macomb, West Bloomfield and Jackson will each have one of each type of freezer.

The health system may begin receiving doses of a coronavirus vaccine as soon as Dec. 12.

Pfizer formally requested an emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine on Nov. 20. If approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 10 as anticipated, the head of Operation Warp Speed said they hope to distribute 6.8 million doses to the states within 24 hours. So, in theory, those first vaccinations could be delivered and administered as soon as Dec. 12.

Moderna officials also say they expect to have doses available in December as manufacturing of the vaccine is underway. Moderna is still waiting for some data, but the company says it could apply for emergency use authorization as early as next week.

A source tells Local 4 that the FDA has asked advisory committee members to reserve Dec. 17-18 for meetings to discuss the Moderna vaccine.

Details about where the COVID-19 vaccine will first be shipped to in Michigan are still being finalized. It is believed that many of the first Pfizer doses will go to hospitals, as frontline healthcare workers are in the first priority group.

More: Details on when COVID-19 vaccine could be made public for use

On Tuesday, the state was discussing if nursing home staff and residents should also be part of that first group. Michigan residents could hear more about that within the week.


About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.