Huntsville Hospital prepares for potential coronavirus vaccines, upcoming therapeutic treatment

A deep-freezing refrigerator is already in place at the hospital to store the Pfizer vaccine when it's ready.

Posted: Nov 18, 2020 9:37 PM
Updated: Nov 18, 2020 10:39 PM

As companies like Pfizer and Moderna prepare to apply for authorization of their respective coronavirus vaccine treatments, facilities like Huntsville Hospital said they are prepared to accept as much as they can receive.

A deep-freezing refrigerator is already in place at the hospital to store the Pfizer vaccine when it's ready.

"And with that freezer, we can store anywhere from 30,000 to 60,000 doses. And then also with the Moderna vaccine, we have a capacity to store about 30,000 doses for that vaccine as well," said Jonathan Edwards, the infectious diseases pharmacist for Huntsville Hospital.

He and others, like Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, said Alabama will likely not receive enough doses of vaccine the first round of distribution to cover all health care workers in the state. That also means that storage space won't be an issue.

"We'll probably be getting more of the Pfizer vaccine than the Moderna vaccine. And so, trying to take care of, primarily, the Madison County campuses of Huntsville Hospital and then once that additional vaccine becomes available, it might be more applicable to being more readily distributed," Edwards said.

In addition to preparing for the vaccine, Edwards said they are also making preparations for a new monoclonal antibody treatment from Eli Lilly and Company that was granted emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration last week.

"This type of therapy is actually a totally different way of looking at COVID. So, before, we had to wait until the patient basically got to the hospital before we provide them with any therapy because there really wasn't anything available as an outpatient," Edwards said.

According to the FDA, "The U.S. government has purchased 300,000 doses of bamlanivimab and committed that Americans will have no out-of-pocket costs for the medicine, although health care facilities may charge a fee for the product's administration."

The treatment is not authorized for those who have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 or those who require oxygen. 

"With the preliminary studies, what they're seeing is actually a reduction in the number of patients that actually have to come to the emergency room or to the hospital if they receive this medication, this monoclonal antibody. And this is specifically prevalent in the patients that are elderly or that are obese. That's where we see the most benefit," Edwards said.

As of Wednesday, the treatment wasn't available in the community or at hospitals. Edwards said Alabama is expected to receive some quantity of bamlanivimab in the future, but how much has yet to be determined by the federal government.

He said more should be known within the next week or so.

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