UW Health will be serving as a regional distribution hub for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

As the nation waits for the first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer, UW Health is preparing to serve as a central storage facility for the region’s supply of vaccine. Partnering with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), UW Health will distribute the vaccine to health systems and long-term care facilities in the region.

“We are proud to play a role in helping our partners in the area get vaccine doses they need to protect their front-line workers as fast as possible so we can get on to the next group of people to be vaccinated,” said Matt Anderson, senior medical director ambulatory operations, UW Health.

Two pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have applications with the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use of their vaccines. While all vaccines require careful storage, Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored colder than -94 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of this, the Department of Health Services implemented the hub-and-spoke model which allows doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be stored in a central location then be shipped to nearby healthcare systems and others for use.

While much of this is welcome news, wide availability of the vaccines is still some time away, Anderson said.

“These vaccines will be going to front-line healthcare workers first, and there are still uncertainties around the quantities we’ll get and the timing of their arrival,” he said. “The public must remain diligent as it will not be widely available anytime soon.”

In fact, representatives of the Centers for Disease Control have said it could be until summer before the general public could begin to be vaccinated.

Rather than calling your healthcare provider to request the vaccine, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Wisconsin Department of Health Services websites for answers to frequently asked questions about the vaccine. This helps reserve healthcare systems’ staffed phone lines for those calling with active symptoms of COVID-19 and other acute care needs.

It is imperative that the public continue to follow safety measures during the holiday season to prevent the spread of the virus. These preventive measures include:

Don’t gather in the presence of those outside your immediate household – and if you must, wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet apart.
Wear a mask when in public, even in outdoor locations.
Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, scrubbing thoroughly and rinsing completely.
If you have symptoms, stay home.