On Monday 28 December, the residents of care home Sint-Pieter in Puurs will be the first to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. The vaccines will depart from UZ Leuven, which receives a symbolic delivery of 10,000 vaccines from Pfizer as the first hospital in Belgium. The first deliveries to a care centre in Brussels and Wallonia will also be from Leuven. The university hospital is given this task because is ready operationally to store the vaccines at a temperature of -80 degrees and the defrost and distribute them. In addition, the hospital was also closely involved in setting up the vaccination strategy.
The UZ Leuven hospital pharmacy is in full preparation for the delivery of the vaccines which have to be stored in a ULT-freezer of up to -80 degrees. Sunday afternoon the vaccines will be moved from the freeze to the refrigerator to defrost. Thomas De Rijdt, head of the hospital pharmacy at UZ Leuven: “Thawing will take two to three hours, and after that the vaccines are good for another five days. The vaccines will moved cold from the refrigerator to the care homes in special packaging. There they will be prepared for administration by adding a saline solution. However, it is not the process of freezing and thawing that is the most tricky step. We have to carefully check up on the planning: the needs of the care homes need to be coordinated with the capacity of the pharmacy and the transport company. The most important issue is not wasting any amount of vaccine."
On Monday morning, the first Belgian vaccines will leave UZ Leuven for the care home in Puurs and to a care home in Wallonia and Brussels. The delivery is a first 'symbolic' delivery from UZ Leuven; as of January the vaccines will be delivered from the local hospitals. UZ Leuven is one of the 41 Belgian hub hospitals responsible for storage, planning and distributions of the vaccination rounds in the care homes of the region.
Possible additional vaccination pilot in Flemish-Brabant
There might be an second vaccination pilot on December 30th, but then in a few care homes in Flemish-Brabant. A second vaccination pilot will enable us further optimise the procedures and the logistical operation by January 5th, when the proper campaign will start in all care homes of the country.
It is our duty as a university hospital to help guide such an important project.prof. dr. Johan Flamaing, head geriatrics UZ Leuven
Prof. dr. Johan Flamaing, head of geriatrics at UZ Leuven: “In January, after this delivery for the whole of Belgium, we will support a number of care homes in Flemish-Brabant in administering the vaccines. During the first coronavirus wave, UZ Leuven and Heilig Hart Leuven have supported the care homes in handling COVID-19. Now minister Beke has asked us to help the care homes with the vaccinations. It is our duty as a university hospital to help such an important project. UZ Leuven will provide staff and will also logistically support the vaccinations in our area.”