First set of thawed COVID-19 vaccines on their way to care homes

28 December 2020

On Monday 28 December at 8:40 hrs, the first thawed Pfizer/BioNtach vaccines left UZ Leuven for a care home in Flandres, Brussels and Wallonia. At 11:00 hrs, the first three Belgians will get COVID-19 vaccine.

© UZ Leuven, Dries Renglé

“The past weeks and months our team has worked hard to get everything organised”, says Thomas De Rijdt, head of the hospital pharmacy at UZ Leuven. “Today was a big test, and I think I can say we passed with flying colours.”

Central storage area

The vaccines arrived on Saturday 26 December at 9 in the morning with a heavily protected vehicle. They are now stored in an ultrafreezer at a temperature of minus 75 degrees Celsius. Throughout the whole vaccination campaign, UZ Leuven will function as a central storage facility for the vaccines.

We're very proud to have been selected as the first hub hospital. It is an acknowledgement of our hard work of the past months. We are more than happy to make all our knowledge and skills available.
Thomas De Rijdt, head of the hospital pharmacy at UZ Leuven

The coming months 41 hub hospitals will provide the distribution of the vaccine.

Start of the vaccination campaign

On Sunday 27 December at 1 pm, UZ Leuven started the thawing process of the vaccines, in order to be able to administer them today to the residents of three Belgian care homes. Thomas De Rijdt: “We've been in touch with the care homes to verify that everything was still in order, so we wouldn't be thawing too many vials. All three care homes have informed us they are ready for it.”

On Monday morning 28 December refrigerated vehicles equipped with an active temperature-control system tranported the thawed vaccines from UZ Leuven to these care homes in Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. A couple of hundred of the 10,000 vials were being transported. At 11 am the first three Belgians will get their vaccination.

If everything goes well, on 30 December the residents of four other care homes will also be vaccinated to further fine-tune the vaccination procedures. The first vaccinations are in fact the dress rehearsal for the rollout of the big vaccination campaign in our country on January 5th.

Neighbouring countries

In the meantime, the rest of Europe has also received its first deliveries of 10,000 vaccines. In France the vaccinations started on Sunday 27 December, the Netherlands will start its vaccination campaing on the 8th of January.

Last edit: 29 December 2020