The first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Colorado on Monday, a milestone in a pandemic that has infected hundreds of thousands of residents and contributed to the deaths of nearly 4,000 people in the 10 months since public health officials first confirmed the novel coronavirus’ presence in the state.
The state’s initial shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer arrived Monday morning, and the first doses to be received by Coloradans will be administered to frontline medical workers at UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins in the afternoon, according to governor’s office.
A box containing 975 doses of vaccine arrived at Colorado’s state lab just after 8 a.m. It was delivered by a FedEx courier in a thermal container packed with dry ice and then placed into an ultra-cold freezer, where it will be stored until it is distributed to hospitals.
It is one of the first shipments of vaccine that will arrive in the state over the next few days.
“I’ve been waiting to do this signature for nine months,” said Gov. Jared Polis, who greeted the FedEx worker and helped unpack the vaccine before it went into the freezer.
“What this means, this triumph of modern science, is that the end of the pandemic is in sight,” he added later. “This is the beginning of the end.”
Polis is encouraging hospitals to administer any COVID-19 doses they get within 72 hours of receiving the vaccine, saying in a statement that the state’s ability to report the shots given “is paramount to Colorado’s ability to receive future allocations of COVID vaccine and end this public health crisis.”
“Colorado is expecting to begin receiving initial, limited doses of COVID vaccine this week, and we need to be ready to hit the ground running,” he said.
State officials have not yet announced how many people will receive shots Monday.
UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital will receive 3,900 doses of the first batch of Pfizer’s vaccine. Next week, the facility is scheduled to receive 4,100 doses of Moderna’s vaccine, which is still awaiting federal emergency use authorization, according to the state health department.
The first box of @pfizer vaccine received by the state #COVID19Colorado pic.twitter.com/MtlJMCryY8
— CO – Emergency Mgmt (@COEmergency) December 14, 2020
The first doses of any COVID-19 vaccines are only for health care workers most closely in contact with coronavirus patients and those living and working in long-term care facilities, per the state’s phase framework.
Providers that receive the first doses will have the ability to store the vaccine at the ultra-cold temperatures required and will help redistribute the vaccine to others across Colorado.
Distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is expected to take months, so public health experts have said Coloradans will need to keep wearing masks, washing their hands and social-distancing for some time.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization of Pfizer’s shots Friday night, making it the first COVID-19 vaccine to be deployed in the United States and kicking of a massive national effort to get people inoculated.
It was only a month ago that Pfizer announced that its vaccine was more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
In this shipment, Colorado will receive enough doses to give 46,800 people their first of two required shots. The vaccine is expected to be administered quickly because of how difficult it is to store and ship. Pfizer’s shots have to be stored in ultra-cold freezers at -103 degrees Fahrenheit. They can also be stored in refrigerators, but will only last five days at temperatures between 35.6 to 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
The state will receive additional batches in the coming weeks, including doses to give those receiving shots this week their second shot in three weeks. State health officials anticipate receiving 95,600 doses of Moderna’s vaccine next week.
Walgreens and CVS — both of which have an agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — will receive a portion of the state’s vaccine allocation to administer to those living and working in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, according to the health department.
Later this winter, other health care workers, first responders and people who work in home health, hospice and dental settings will begin to receive doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
The state health department has said it likely won’t be until spring that the next phase of people will be inoculated, with the general public expected to receive COVID-19 shots by summer.
This content was originally published here.