ARLINGTON, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) –  They have arrived.

Texas Health’s central pharmacy received two small boxes at 9:50 a.m. Tuesday, December 15, containing the concentrate for 5,850 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which were quickly stored in a special deep freezer and prepared for distribution.

Randy Ball, M.B.A., R.Ph., vice president of pharmacy and system pharmacy officer, pushed the shipment into an elevator and rolled it into the room containing a tall freezer that will maintain the required -94 degrees Fahrenheit, Texas Health explained in a news release.

Texas Health rolling cart with vaccines (credit Texas Health)

Ball unloaded the small stacks of Pfizer boxes, each about the size of a box of chocolates, into the freezer wearing special blue gloves that guard against the intense cold.

The historic moment was quick and efficient — a portion of the vaccines are being taken to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest Fort Worth Tuesday, where vaccinations will begin.

The vaccine in the vials will first be thawed and then diluted before vaccinations can take place.

Texas Health retrieving vials with gloves on (credit: Texas Health)

“Our team members are exhausted from nine months of providing intensive care to seriously ill patients with COVID-19, but despite that weariness they continue to care for patients and their families each day,” said Barclay Berdan, FACHE, Texas Health chief executive officer. “The vaccine will help protect these heroes as they continue to serve the people in our communities.”

The system’s initial state allocation will be used for the vaccination of front-line caregivers and other healthcare workers in emergency departments and COVID-19 units beginning Tuesday.

More shipments are expected from Pfizer and Moderna, which the FDA is still reviewing for Emergency Use Authorization, in the coming weeks and months.

Texas Health vials of vaccine (credit: Texas Health)

“The sooner you give the vaccine, the sooner you’re going to get more,” Ball said. “This is exciting to be able to provide this level of protection to our front-line healthcare workers today.”

Vaccination clinics are scheduled at 16 of the system’s hospitals this week, once training is complete.

Ball said the goal is to administer all the vaccines in the current shipment by the end of the day Friday, Dec. 18.

The vaccine will go to vaccination events across the system in special coolers with dry ice with temperature monitors.

Texas Health vials in freezer (credit: Texas Health)

This initial shipment is for the first of the two vaccinations required.

Employees are not required to take the vaccination.

As more vaccine becomes available, it will be offered to a wider group of healthcare workers in different settings within Texas Health, with the intent of offering the vaccine to all Texas Health employees over time as the vaccine becomes available.

“As this and other COVID-19 vaccines are approved for emergency use, we remain committed to evaluating what is safest and most effective,” Berdan said.

Texas Health supports the scientific and regulatory processes used to develop, assess efficacy and give authorization for the vaccines.

Healthcare workers who choose to get vaccinated will still be required to follow personal protective equipment standards, the hospital system said.

The vaccine does not replace the need for safety precautions, such as wearing a mask, maintaining safe distance, washing hands and limiting gatherings with individuals outside the individual’s household.

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CBSDFW.com Staff