COLUMBIA - Officials with MU Health Care met with reporters on Friday to discuss plans to store and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine.

Brad Myers, MU Health Care Executive Director of Pharmacy and Laboratory Services, and family medicine physician Laura Morris, MD, addressed what is expected for the Pfizer vaccine to be distributed in the coming weeks. 

Morris described the news as 'a message of hope and excitement."

"This vaccine and the positive news around the vaccines efficacy have just lifted everyone's day," Morris said. "We are prepared to start distributing the vaccine to our frontline employees within a few days of receiving it."

The initial plans are for MU Health to vaccinate those who work directly with COVID-19 patients first. 

"We are first going to plan to distribute in a tiered fashion to our frontline patient facing employees, staff and clinicians who have contact with COVID-19 patients, and who perform high risk and very high risk procedures with those COVID-19 patients," Morris said. "Really the way that we distribute this depends on the supply. So if we have enough vaccine, as soon as we can get our hands on it, we're going to get it into the arms of our employees to help protect our patients to help protect our workforce, and to help protect our community."

After frontline workers, other MU Health Care employees will receive the vaccine. 

"We hope to very quickly move into vaccinating the community, particularly high risk patients, residents of long-term care facilities, caregivers in the community and others that are higher risk, and then to move down into hopefully vaccinating everyone within our community as soon as possible," Morris said.

MU Health Care officials said there's a partnership in place with University Hospital to store the COVID-19 vaccine in cold temperatures. An estimated 39,000 doses of the vaccine will be able to be stored there. 

Myers says this could change if other vaccines, besides the Pfizer vaccine, get approved by the FDA. 

"We are all hopeful and anticipating that additional vaccines, including the maternal vaccine, may be authorized in the future, and if so that will help us determine how best to get those doses out to the community," Myers said. "The other vaccine formulations are not expected to have the same ultra cold storage requirements that the Pfizer vaccine does."

Overall, the officials said they are excited to move forward with a vaccine that could save lives and move us out of the pandemic.

"We started nine months ago that was what everybody wanted was a vaccine," Myers said. "That's why there's so much excitement. Even tears, I've seen tears for people because of the size of nine long months that affected both your work life and your personal life. And there's finally there's hope."

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