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LRH delivers more than 1,000 vaccines in one day

Littleton Regional Hospital teams delivered over 1,000 Pfizer vaccines to NH residents at an unanticipated one-day clinic on Sunday. (Photo by Angel Larcom) (click for larger version)
March 03, 2021
LITTLETON — More than 1,000 people received COVID-19 vaccines last Sunday, thanks to the well-organized and efficient teams at Littleton Regional Hospital. The facility received notification from state officials that 650 Pfizer doses needed to be used within 48 hours on Friday afternoon.

State troopers transported the supply north immediately. On Saturday, the hospital got word that an additional 520 doses needed to be used by Monday. Littleton firefighters were dispatched to retrieve the second supply.

Currently, New Hampshire residents 65 and over can receive vaccines, along with high-risk health care workers, first responders, and medically vulnerable individuals with two or more high-risk conditions such as cancer or heart disease. Phase Two will open distribution to educators, childcare workers and anyone 50 and older.

Phase Two is scheduled to begin at the beginning of April. LRH Chief Nursing Officer Koren Superchi said on Sunday that the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approval of a third vaccine on Saturday would help speed up the delivery process.

The two previously approved vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna require two doses within a three to four-week time frame to be effective. However, the new Johnson and Johnson vaccine is delivered in one dose, said Superchi. It is also shelf-stable and does not require deep freeze conditions to remain viable.

News also broke last week that Pfizer's COVID vaccine no longer needed ultra-cold storage temperatures between -112 degrees and -76 degrees Fahrenheit to remain viable. FDA regulators announced last Thursday that two weeks in standard pharmacy freezers would allow faster distribution to smaller facilities with fewer resources.

Such changes would likely mean that Sunday's clinic would be the last of its kind at LRH. However, it made a significant dent in the VAMS cancellation backlog. January's system failure left nearly 1,100 New Hampshire residents confused and frustrated, yet the LRH team administered 1,170 doses on Sunday. Nothing went to waste.

The vaccine clinic began at 7 a.m. on Sunday, with cars arriving as early as 6 am. Approximately 300 doses were delivered within the first two hours.

"It's a pretty smooth process. Over time, we have said that we felt like we could do 1,000 patients in a day at these clinics. Today will be that day," said Superchi.

Participants waited patiently as the line of cars extended from the hospital campus to the intersection of Saint Johnsbury Road and Route Eight for the better part of the day. Fourteen clinical staff members administered the vaccines as a support team of more than 40 additional LRH employees kept the documentation organized and the campus parking lot flowing.

The LRH team screened participants upon arrival to verify New Hampshire residency, existing VAMS registrations and Level 1B qualifications. Individuals that had been negatively affected by the VAMS system errors received the first doses, with unregistered residents entering the queue by 10 a.m.

Although the clinic was scheduled to end at noon, supply and demand remained strong throughout the day. Once everyone with VAMS registration documents received a vaccination, the LRH staff shifted to a first-come, first-served platform until all available doses had been administered.

Sunday's clinic was the second last-minute LRH vaccine disbursement to occur in less than a month.

Superchi said, "Being able to vaccinate this many people in the North Country is huge. The staff has been phenomenal. We sent out emails asking for help on Friday afternoon and had everyone we needed within 30 minutes. They're very committed to this process, and everyone wants to get back to a normal life."

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