ALBEMARLE — A coronavirus vaccine is coming soon to Stanly County, according to Atrium Health.
The health system announced in late December that its Albemarle location is one of three facilities in rural North Carolina — Atrium Health Stanly, Atrium Health Kings Mountain and Atrium Health Anson — that will be given early access to the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which was granted emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 18.
Atrium Health is among the first in the state to get a shipment of the Moderna vaccine, which is projected to be available to the general public in the spring of 2021 and available to hospital staff even sooner.
“With this shipment of the new vaccine from Moderna, frontline healthcare employees who work at one of Atrium Health’s integrated network of hospitals outside of the Charlotte area will now have convenient access to a COVID-19 vaccine,” Atrium Health said in its press release.
While the hospital plans to utilize the Pfizer vaccine within Charlotte, it will focus on distributing the Moderna vaccine outside of the city, in part due to its storage capabilities. Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine can be stored in a standard freezer (-13 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit), thus allowing it to be kept in healthcare facilities that lack an ultra-cold freezer.
According to Atrium Health, who is also slated to participate in a clinical trial with a third vaccine candidate in late December, the Moderna vaccine is viable for 30 days after being removed from a freezer.
“Atrium Health received an initial shipment of 1,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, which has been clinically proven to be safe and 94.1% effective,” Atrium’s press release continued. “This supply will be used to vaccinate Atrium Health’s frontline healthcare workers, working in high-priority areas where they are at a higher risk of exposure, to receive the vaccine at a faster pace.”
While it’s already been approved for usage, the Moderna vaccine is being reviewed by the FDA in an ongoing Phase 3 trial of around 30,000 participants; the dosage is split up into two separate injections separated by 28 days.
On Dec. 14, Atrium Health announced that it was the first provider in the state to administer the Pfizer vaccine, which it has given to over 1,500 of its employees so far and is scheduled to give to 5,300 more. Like the Moderna vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine is also split into two doses separated by a month.
With millions of people awaiting a vaccine, an ethical and financial decision for epidemiologists going forward will be whether or not they should distribute two separate doses to the general public or to vaccinate double the amount of people with that same supply. On Dec. 10, the FDA released documents indicating that a single dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines is still highly effective at preventing COVID-19.
In the meantime, Atrium Health has started up a voluntary vaccine research registry that will provide information regarding vaccine development — individuals who want to get involved in the registry will be provided advanced access to future COVID-19 vaccine trials.