KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Hospitals are not wasting time preparing to receive shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID19 vaccine that is being manufactured in Portage

Bronson Healthcare in Kalamazoo has plans to administer the first shipment to front-line workers as soon as possible.  

Dr. Richard Van Enk, the director of infection prevention at Bronson, says vaccinating health care personnel is a crucial step to keeping the country’s medical systems operating. 

“The people who will be asked to make their appointments first are people that work within Bronson Hospital that have the most contact with patients,” he said. 

The hospital will hold clinics for its employees, similar to the way it provides flu shots every year. Van Enk anticipates it will be able to begin vaccinations next week. 

“We have a portion of our total need that will be coming and then we’re expecting equal or a larger number of shipments every week and so we should be able to get all of our employees done in maybe two, three, possibly four weeks,” Van Enk said. 

Bronson will store the vaccine in a sub-zero freezer before transferring it to small containers that allow constant temperature monitoring. 

“We know approximately how many doses we’re going to get the first shipment but we don’t know after that,” Van Enk said. 

In addition to the small vaccine vials, other crucial supplies will also be arriving. 

“They’re also going to give us containers of syringes and alcohol pads and the little card,” Van Enk said. 

He said COVID-19 mitigation protocols like mask wearing and social distancing will continue for many months.  

“The applicability of that tool is long-term, so we won’t see the effect of immunization probably until next summer. So that means we’re going to be living in the current situation all through the winter and into the spring before we start seeing the effects of immunization,” Van Enk said.
 
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevision will release detailed recommendations on who will be allowed to get the vaccine and when in the coming days. Michigan released its four-phase plan Friday, explaining that health care workers and long-term care facilities will get vaccinated first, followed by other essential workers and people who are at high risk of developing a serious case of COVID-19, and then finally the general public.