Summary

Vial used to prepare the first six doses of COVID-19 vaccine at the Melbourne Airport Vaccination Hub run by Western Health. It was administered at 9:08am on Monday 22 February 2021 at Melbourne Airport by Richard Bartolo, Manager of Infection Prevention at Western Health.

The first recipient was Laloma Carstens, a registered nurse and Assistant Nurse Unit Manager (ANUM), who is working to administer the Pfizer vaccine at the Melbourne Airport COVID Vaccination Hub and Sunshine Hospital Vaccination Hub. Laloma is an ANUM in ICU (Intensive Care Unit) at Sunshine Hospital and worked with COVID-19 patients during the first and second waves of Victoria's COVID-19 pandemic. Western Health's Intensive Care Units were the most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak during the first and second waves, with the highest number of patients with COVID-19 of any ICU in Australia. The Melbourne Airport Vaccination Hub is run by Western Health and is responsible for vaccinating border staff, including flight crew, and hospital staff within their catchment area.

The Pfizer vaccine (COMIRNATY) was the first COVID-19 vaccine to be provisionally approved and included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) on 25 January 2021 for active immunisation to prevent COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, in people 16 and older. On 15 February 2021 more than 142,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrived at Sydney airport to be distributed to vaccination hubs across Australia. The vaccination program began on Monday 22 February, although a small number of people in Sydney received their first vaccinations on Sunday 21 February with Jane Malysiak the first recipient. The vaccination program has been staged with quarantine and border workers, frontline healthcare workers, and aged and disability care residents and staff first in line to be vaccinated. In Victoria Monash Health, Western Health, the Austin and Barwon Health have all been involved in the initial Pfizer vaccine roll-out. The first Victorian vaccinations took place at Monash Hospital followed by Melbourne Airport and then the Austin Hospital.

The Pfizer vaccine is stored in small vials which hold five or six 30-microgram doses of the vaccine, which must be diluted with saline before being injected. This is done by turning each vial up and down (inverting it) ten times, cleaning the top of the vial with an antiseptic swab (to ensure it remains free from contamination), injecting a set amount of sterile saline into the vial, through the top, to dilute the vaccine, then inverting it another ten times to make sure the saline mixes with the vaccine. Then the top of the vial is cleaned and a new syringe is used to "draw" up 0.3 millilitres of vaccine from the vial. Most vaccination is Australia are 0.5 millilitres so 0.3 millilitres is a new volume for vaccinators to get used to.

At the Melbourne Airport Vaccination Hub pharmacists are responsible for preparing the individual doses from each vial. In order to ensure they always get five or six doses out of each vial and that the vaccine remains effective they spent one week specifically training for these vaccinations to make sure they abide by the cold chain requirements, use the proper aseptic technique so that they don't have any contamination of a vial and they used dummy vials to make sure that they could get six doses out of each multidose vial.

Marion Kainer, Head of Infectious Diseases at Western Health, describes the vaccine as 'liquid gold', she notes that the process from the time when the multidose vial comes out of the refrigerator and it's thawed, to the time that it is reconstituted with putting in this normal saline, drawing up those syringes, and checking it off, actually takes 40 minutes, so it's done very carefully 'this is an amazing vaccine and we want to make sure we don't waste any of it.'

Physical Description

Glass vial with paper label

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