UW Health, in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), will serve as a distribution center and storage facility for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
The DHS plans to implement a hub-and-spoke model, where Pfizer vaccine doses will be stored in a central location like UW Health before being shipped to healthcare systems. The Pfizer vaccine requires storage in a facility that is colder than -94 degrees Fahrenheit.
“I think the reasons that we were likely chosen include, one, our ability to have ultracold freezer storage and to have capacity,” Senior Medical Director of Ambulatory Operations at UW Health Matt Anderson said in a UW Health video. “Two, being located within our region, and I think Madison being a natural location for a vaccine to be distributed out from.”
According to Anderson, front-line healthcare workers will receive first priority when it comes to the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. UW Health employs 1,750 physicians and 21,000 staff among seven hospitals and over 80 outpatient sites.
“From a standpoint of the large number of employees, healthcare workers that we’ll have to vaccinate there can be some advantage to having that on site for us here to minimize the number of times that vaccine has to be distributed to our location,” Anderson said.
The UW Health release noted that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said that the vaccine may not be available to the general public until this summer. While individuals wait to receive the vaccine, UW Health urges members of the public to take the necessary safety precautions to stop the spread of the virus.
“We are committed and fully prepared to be able to execute and make sure that we can do this in the most efficient way for both us and for the communities around us,” Anderson said. “The number one thing that the public can do in the meantime is to continue the things that we have been talking about for months: the physical distancing, hand washing, mask wearing, doing all of those things because it is likely to be months before we’re gonna have access to vaccines more broadly.”