A historic day: St. Charles Bend receives its first allotment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

BEND, Ore. – The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is here.

At 10:25 a.m. Thursday, a FedEx truck special delivered its only cargo—a single temperature-controlled box of 975 doses—to the St. Charles Bend loading dock where Debra Carlson, an inventory coordinator for the hospital’s inpatient pharmacy, officially received it.

“This is a historic moment,” said Joe Sluka, president and CEO of St. Charles Heath System. “In the same year a global pandemic landed in the United States, the scientific community delivered a vaccine. It’s a remarkable achievement that gives us hope as we continue to battle this virus and try to return our world to some version of normal.”

Carlson, who donned safety goggles and a special pair of thick gloves designed to protect her hands, helped transport the box back to the inpatient pharmacy, where the doses were carefully unpacked and placed in an ultra-cold temperature freezer capable of storing them at -70 degrees C.

The vaccines will remain in the freezer until Monday morning, when the pharmacy team will begin dethawing and diluting individual doses in preparation for administering them to the first group of caregivers at noon. It is expected all 975 doses will be dispersed by the end of Wednesday.

In the meantime, St. Charles caregivers who are eligible for vaccination are receiving notifications via text and email with information about when they are scheduled to receive their first dose.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is administered in two doses 21 days apart, so only after receiving a second dose three weeks out will they be considered fully vaccinated.

The vaccine arrives on a day when St. Charles Bend has 50 inpatients with COVID-19, four of whom are in the Intensive Care Unit and two of whom are on a ventilator. The health system continues to postpone some elective surgeries to free up the staff and beds needed to care for the highest need patients.

“This year has been a difficult year for all of us, and the fight is not over yet,” said Dr. Jeff Absalon, St. Charles’ chief physician executive. “The stress on our health system continues to be very real. On Tuesday, every one of our ICU beds were full. While today is certainly one to be celebrated, we must acknowledge the difficult road still ahead of us and continue to be vigilant in halting the spread of the virus.”

About St. Charles Health System

St. Charles Health System, Inc., headquartered in Bend, Ore., owns and operates St. Charles Bend, Madras, Prineville and Redmond. It also owns family care clinics in Bend, La Pine, Madras, Prineville, Redmond and Sisters. St. Charles is a private, not-for-profit Oregon corporation and is the largest employer in Central Oregon with more than 4,500 caregivers. In addition, there are more than 350 active medical staff members and nearly 200 visiting medical staff members who partner with the health system to provide a wide range of care and service to our communities.



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