A closer look at how COVID-19 vaccines will be distributed, stored in Georgia

ATHENS, Ga. — There are many questions surrounding exactly how the COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed in Georgia. Each vaccine will have different requirements for transportation and storage.

Channel 2′s Matt Johnson spent the day looking into the process.

The first doses of vaccines could be distributed within the next 10 days, but vaccine distribution plans have been in the works for several months.

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“It’s very exciting. It’s there’s a light at the end of the tunnel is what it feels like,” Megan Cunningham said.

Cunningham told Johnson that she is counting down the days until a COVID-19 vaccine is ready to go.

“I don’t want to end up with COVID. People in my family have gotten it and have suffered pretty greatly from it,” she said.

The governor and state health director Dr. Kathleen Toomey laid out how they’ll get the vaccine to the public this month.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are expected to get emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday.

“We will have a limited number of vaccines that will be distributed within Georgia in the next week to 10 days,” Kemp said.

There will be several hundred thousand doses at the beginning with more expected later. Georgia nursing home residents and health care workers will be the first to receive the vaccines.

“Certainly early January, I would think that we would have all the health care workers covered,” Toomey said.

Transporting the vaccine will be a public-private partnership that will require refrigerated trucks and a lot of dry ice.

Christian Reyes with PTS Logistics in Atlanta ships tens of thousands of dry ice every month and expects to see a shortage.

“Temperatures in dry ice can reach minus 171 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes it the ideal candidate for transporting frozen products,” Reyes said.

The vaccine will have to be stored in ultra low temperatures, too, using freezers like the ones inside the University of Georgia School of Veterinary Science.

Researchers are preparing to store the vaccines there for use in two weeks.

Channel 2 anchor Jovita Moore spoke with Dr. Ted Ross, the director of UGA’s Center for Vaccines and Immunology.

Ross explained that Georgia’s various health districts are coordinating with universities and hospitals that have access to ultra-low freezers.

“Well it’s going to be a challenge, but we have ultra-low freezers here at the university. We have devoted these reserves to storing the COVID vaccines for Pfizer and then eventually Moderna,” Ross said. “There will be transportation in an ultra cold containers to get them to various sites like local hospitals, where first line health care workers are going to be vaccinated.”

“As time goes on, we’ll eventually have other groups of people that will get vaccinated like first line emergency responders and people in nursing homes,” he said.

Meanwhile, not everyone says they will be lining up to take a vaccine when it’s ready for the general public.

State officials know they will have to convince some people that it’s safe. There are also concerns some people who get the first shot may feel side effects that would make them want to skip the second dose.

“We have to have the system in place, which we do to track and monitor and call individuals back, but to make sure that people will be willing to come back for that second dose,” Toomey said.

People like Cunningham said a vaccine works better when as many people as possible get involved.

“I’m hopeful that we can get enough people on board,” she said.

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