By Richard Molinaro, PharmD
Pharmacy Department, Director
Emergency Hospital Systems
Our community immunization plan began on Thursday, January 21, 2021 with the arrival of the first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines at Texas Emergency Hospital.
Pfizer’s vaccination arrives in carefully packaged containers designed to maintain the temperature of the vaccine between -60 C and -80 C (-76 F and –112 F). Once they arrive, the vaccines are checked in and immediately stored in an ultra-cold freezer with a thermostat setting of -70 C. When the vaccines are kept at this temperature, they are good until their labeled expiration date (usually around 6 months).
The Pfizer vaccine is complex and requires precise timing of thawing, diluting and administration. Once removed from the ultra-low temperature of the freezer, the vials are placed in a refrigerator to thaw. They are unopened, undiluted, and are stable for 5 days (120 hours) as long as they are kept refrigerated (between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius or 35.6 Fahrenheit – 46.4 Fahrenheit). Just prior to use, each vial is injected with 1.8 milliliters of normal saline yielding the exact concentration needed for each immunization dose – 30mcg/0.3mLs. Once diluted, the contents of the vial must be used within the next 6 hours before they expire. Vaccine that has been diluted for over 6 hours should no longer be administered.
Individuals 16 years and older can get the Pfizer vaccine. Currently those who qualify for Phases 1A and 1B of the vaccination program are eligible for vaccination. (Texas does have a ‘Minor Consent Form’ to be signed by a parent, legal guardian, or managing conservator. See state guidelines here.)
The vaccine is given in two doses, 21 days apart (in exceptional circumstances, the second dose can be given as early as 17 days after the first). It is essential that individuals receive both doses to build full immunity. If an appointment is missed for a second scheduled dose 21 days after the first, the second dose should be rescheduled as soon as possible.
The Pfizer vaccine has been cleared as an emergency use vaccine (EUA) by the FDA. The public safety is their number one concern. People who have been vaccinated are encouraged to participate in the CDC’s V-Safe monitoring program app* (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/vsafe.html ) which is a voluntary smartphone-based tool to stay in touch with the CDC for monitoring the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.
Individuals must complete the consent forms prior to arrival to their vaccination appointment. The documents can be found at this link.
* CDC: V-SAFE (PDF: 644 KB, 21 pages) — A new smartphone-based, after-vaccination health checker for people who receive COVID-19 vaccines. V-SAFE will use text messaging and web surveys from CDC to check in with vaccine recipients for health problems following COVID-19 vaccination. The system also will provide telephone follow up to anyone who reports medically significant (important) adverse events.
Immunization Registry (ImmTrac2) – Minor Consent Form (rev. 02/2021)
Use this form to register your child, aged 17 and younger, in ImmTrac2.
Birth registrars: DO NOT use this form. See F11-11936 below.
Immunization Registry (ImmTrac2) Authorization to Release Official Immunization History (rev. 03/2017)
Use this form to authorize the release of your or your child’s ImmTrac2 records.