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Tripler Army Medical Center getting first Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday

Tripler Army Medical Center expects to get its first batch of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday, with Defense Department intensive care unit, emergency room and urgent care personnel and first responders the first in line for the first of two inoculations.

“We are tracking via FedEx that it should be arriving tomorrow,” said Tripler spokeswoman Mackenzie Walsh.

Walsh said she’s prohibited from disclosing the amount, but the Defense Department has said the vaccine goes out in batches of 975 doses. The Queen’s Medical Center today received its first shipment of 975 doses of the vaccine.

Walsh said when the injections start depends on exactly when the vaccine arrives, but “we’re looking to start inoculating as early as Wednesday.” A second dose is needed 21 days later.

Meanwhile, 37 Veterans Affairs medical centers across the country began receiving and administering the Pfizer vaccine this week, but the VA Pacific Islands Health Care System, headquartered on Oahu, was not selected.

Amy Rohlfs, a spokeswoman for the Pacific system, said the initial distribution sites were chosen based on criteria including freezer availability and ability to vaccinate a large volume of people quickly.

“Even though our site was not selected for the Pfizer vaccine, we expect that the Moderna vaccine will be authorized soon, and our facility may receive vaccine doses through the VA at that time,” she said. “VA’s ultimate goal is to offer vaccine to all veterans receiving care at the VA and all employees.”

The system provides outpatient medical and mental health care in Hawaii and the Pacific islands through its main ambulatory care clinic on Oahu and through seven community-based outpatient clinics including: West Oahu, Hawaii island (Hilo and Kona), Maui, Kauai, American Samoa and Guam.

“I want you to know that when we receive the vaccine we are prepared to strategically administer it. Our COVID-19 planning team has been working tirelessly to prepare,” said Dr. Adam M. Robinson, director of the Pacific Islands Health Care System, in a “Veterans’ message.”

Robinson said the distribution plan will be discussed and questions will be answered at the next Veterans Town Hall from noon to 1 p.m. Hawaii time on Wednesday.

The Cisco WebEx link is: https://veteransaffairs.webex.com/veteransaffairs/onstage/g.phpMTID=e277faedc5e47b709e1cb61eaf54c9bb9. Veterans also can join via phone Audio at 1-404-397-1596.

Advance questions can be sent to: VAPIHCSPublicAffairsOffice@va.gov. The information will be recorded and shared on the VA Pacific islands website.

There are 56,000 veterans who are registered with the VA Pacific Islands Health Care System, Rohlfs said. Veterans must be registered for VA health care to get the vaccine through the health care system.

The VA said it would first vaccinate “front-line” VA health care workers nationally and veterans residing in long-term care units in 37 of its medical centers.

The Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization Friday for the Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE vaccine. With that approval anticipated, Tripler was selected as one of 16 sites worldwide for a “controlled pilot” program for the first vaccinations within what the Defense Department is calling a phased approach.

According to the state, Hawaii has about 42,000 active duty military personnel, nearly 10,000 Guard and Reserve members, 20,000 civilian defense workers, 60,000 dependents, 18,000 retirees and 111,000 veterans.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said today that this past weekend’s shipment represented enough doses to vaccinate 2.9 million people, with another 2.9 million doses held back to be sent in 21 days for the second dose.

Azar said initially, 636 sites across the country are receiving the Pfizer vaccine, with 145 receiving doses today, 425 on Tuesday and 66 on Wednesday.

“By Wednesday, vaccine will be delivered everywhere from sites here in Washington to the shores of Guam to the northeastern corner of Maine,” he said.

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