MASSACHUSETTS — The first doses of a coronavirus vaccine could be shipped to Massachusetts within weeks, where they will be headed for hospitals and earmarked for health care workers potentially exposed to the virus.
The Department of Public Health's plan released this week said Pfizer's vaccine could arrive as early as mid-December and Moderna's could ship as early as late December. Pfizer's will come in 975-dose increments, while Moderna's will come in 100-dose increments.
"While exactly when the vaccine will be available is still unknown, hospital health care personnel (HCP) will be among the first recipients of the vaccine, and hospitals must prepare for the receipt and administration of COVID-19 vaccine," the plan reads.
Hospitals are being asked to identify the first 975 people who will receive the vaccine, followed by the next 975 people until all employees are accounted for. COVID-19 vaccines are voluntary for health care workers.
The two doses of Pfizer's vaccine must be administered 21 days apart. The two doses of Moderna's vaccine must be administered 28 days apart. The second doses are being held by the federal government and will be shipped as needed.
The Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold storage at minus 112 degrees. The Moderna vaccine can be stored at much warmer — though still very cold — temperatures. Hospitals without ultra-cold freezers can store the vaccines in the vials they are shipped in.
The state's interim distribution plan filed last month said it was expecting 20,000-60,000 doses in the first stage of distribution, though the dual breakthroughs by Pfizer and Moderna could increase those numbers.
Health care workers are prioritized, along with people at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19, including those with underlying health conditions, people 65 or older, and other unspecified essential workers.
This week's plan only references health care workers.
Experts have said Massachusetts will have a leg up in distributing the vaccine thanks to a robust flu vaccination infrastructure.