The Pittsylvania-Danville and Southside Health Districts began conducting closed “point of dispensing” (POD) COVID-19 vaccination clinics specifically for “Phase 1a” priority groups.

Phase 1a is the first group eligible to receive the vaccine and include health system personnel with direct contact or a high risk of contact with COVID-positive patients. Phase 1a includes emergency medical services, front-facing staff in primary care medical offices, dentists’ offices and others who provide direct health services in various settings.

Southside Health District began vaccinating Dec. 23, and Pittsylvania-Danville began Dec. 28. These PODs are specifically for Phase 1a; COVID-19 vaccine is not available to the general public and these are not public events.

Phase 1a also includes long-term care residents and staff that are being vaccinated through a federal partnership with CVS and Walgreen’s.

“We are pleased to provide a safe and effective vaccine to health workers in our community,” said Dr. Scott Spillmann, Pittsylvania-Danville and Southside Health Districts’ director. “While the vaccine provides hope on the horizon, it will still be months before the vaccine is widely available publicly. It’s important to remember we are still very much in the trenches of this pandemic and we must remain vigilant in COVID-19 prevention practices. Continue taking steps to protect yourself and others, such as covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often and staying at least six feet away from others.”

Vaccination planning teams are reaching out to health care providers in the two health districts. Phase 1a health care providers who wish to receive the vaccine or have questions should contact Nurse Manager Julia Gwaltney (julia.gwaltney@vdh.virginia.gov) or Local Health Emergency Coordinator Chris Garrett (christopher.garrett@vdh.virginia.gov).

North of those health districts, on Dec. 23, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) held its first event to administer a COVID-19 vaccine to up to 300 EMS workers from within the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts.

Also, Centra had received its first shipment of the Pfizer COVID vaccine at Lynchburg General Hospital on Dec. 15. The shipment arrived via Federal Express in a 16 by 16-inch box with no indication from the outside of the contents inside. The package was received by Tim Oswald, operations supervisor of Materials Management, and Randall Puckett, managing director of Pharmacy.

The box was transported to Pharmacy where it was housed in a special sub-zero refrigerator with a temperature display reading minus 70 degrees Celsius. Optimal temperature range is considered anywhere between minus 60 degrees to minus 80 degrees Celsius. The shipping box was opened to reveal three containers measuring approximately 12 by 16 inches. These three boxes contained vaccines for 2,925 people. Each vial, measuring one-and-a-half inches holds enough vaccine to cover five recipients.

The three containers were packaged in dry ice and shipped with a GPS tracker and temperature-controlled monitor. The containers must be removed using Nitrogen-proof gloves due to the extreme temperature requirement.

There’s more to this story in the upcoming issue of the Smith Mountain Eagle newspaper. Pick up a copy or subscribe at www.smithmountaineagle.com/subscriber_services to view the full article in the print and/or e-edition version.

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