Execs from Cleveland Clinic, Baystate Health share challenges their vaccine programs are facing

As 2020 came to a close, hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 case surges were tasked with the uncertain and demanding process of launching a comprehensive vaccine administration program.

Hospitals' efforts to participate in the country's COVID-19 vaccine rollout have faced significant challenges, including having to meet ultracold storage temperature requirements, the lack of a centralized system to coordinate efforts between states and cities, supply chain issues and scheduling disorganization and inefficiencies.

Below, two health system chief pharmacy officers weigh in on the challenges their COVID-19 vaccine programs continue to work through.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and style.

Samuel Calabrese, chief pharmacy officer, Cleveland Clinic: The biggest challenge we faced at the initial stages was storage. Working as a team of teams, we were quickly able to stand up a secure area with 16 flexible freezers to accommodate vaccine storage for the enterprise. This could not have been accomplished without the collaboration of supply chain, facilities, medical and pharmacy staff.

Currently, we continue to have challenges with supply. At this time, there is an overwhelming interest in vaccination from our patients; however, the supply does not match that interest. We also have challenges planning vaccinations, as we typically are not made aware of our full allocations of vaccines until late in the week, with delivery on Mondays or Tuesdays. This makes it difficult to determine how many appointment slots we should open.

Gary Kerr, PharmD, chief pharmacy officer, Baystate Health (Springfield, Mass.): The complexities of all of the logistics in totality create so many moving parts, all interdependent on each other. As other systems have stated, it is a major challenge in maintaining a day-to-day schedule of trained/certified immunizers to fill shifts beginning at 6 a.m. and running until 8 or 9 p.m.  

Overlapping front-line essential healthcare workers’ second doses with first dose patients as we moved through the priority levels contributes to logistics challenges as well. Ongoing logistics challenges are expected as larger subsets of the population move up the priority ladder.

More articles on pharmacy:
No need for new vaccine against virus variants, Pfizer says
US drug prices 256% higher than other countries, study shows
J&J says its COVID-19 vaccine is 66% effective


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