CHI Health Could Be Giving COVID-19 Vaccinations by Mid-December

Dec. 1, 2020, 2:17 p.m. ·

Ultra-cold freezers used to store vaccines at CHI Health. (Photo courtesy of CHI Health)

CHI Health says hospitals could be giving COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as the week of December 14th pending FDA emergency use authorization. The health system has three of the ultra-cold freezers needed to store Pfizer’s vaccine at hospitals in Omaha, Lincoln and Grand Island, with another one on the way in Kearney. CHI has the ability to store more than 500,000 vaccine doses at almost -100° F.

“We have a great capacity to handle the ultra-low Pfizer vaccine, store it and manage it,” said Michael Tiesi, who is coordinating CHI’s vaccine effort. “It can be stored for six months at these ultra-low temperatures.”

The vaccines will most likely be used for high risk individuals and frontline healthcare workers first, although CHI won’t require its employees to be vaccinated. There are still some questions about the vaccines, but hospital officials are confident they’ll be effective.

“We don’t know yet about how long this vaccine will provide immunity for the individual that’s received it, but it does appear to be highly effective, which is a really good sign in terms of our ability to get ahead of this virus and really lessen the number of critically ill people that end up in our hospitals,” CHI Health CEO Dr. Cliff Robertson said.

Pfizer’s vaccine is expected to get emergency use authorization from the FDA first, followed by Moderna’s vaccine. Both vaccines have proven to be more than 90% effective in trials.