MUNCIE, Ind. — Meridian Health Services is looking to bring the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to the Suzanne Gresham Center. Once the supply arrives, it will become the second local clinic to offer the Pfizer vaccine.
Lisa Suttle, Meridian’s regional vice president of clinical services, told The Star Press that the healthcare system has ordered the specialized refrigerator to hold the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, which was expected to arrive May 4.
“We will then begin working on getting the Pfizer vaccine,” Suttle said. “We wanted to make sure we had the freezer and have all the guidelines in place to keep the Pfizer vaccine safe.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored in an “ultra-cold” freezer at -112 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit, or a freezer -13 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit for up to two weeks.
Currently, only IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital has the capacity to do this in Delaware County, which is why it’s been the sole Pfizer provider.
Suttle said one major reason Meridian wanted to begin offering Pfizer was because it has been approved for younger ages, with the youngest currently being age 16. According to a report from USAToday, the FDA is working to authorize the vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds within the next week.
“That’s our biggest thing, to be able to help (Ball Memorial) with that, the community in the schools, and the younger population,” Suttle said.
Up until this point, Meridian has offered mostly Moderna, which has been approved for those 18 and older. They also administered about 300 Johnson & Johnson vaccines prior to the pause in late April.
Once the refrigerator arrives, it will go to the Suzanne Gresham Center, Meridian’s main vaccine site in the county. The healthcare system has set up numerous one-day satellite clinic events throughout town, and Suttle said they are working with the CDC to possibly travel with some of those vaccines or send them to other clinics in local areas.
Bringing back the J&J vaccine
Along with bringing in Pfizer vaccines, Meridian has also resumed its offering of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which was briefly put on hold by federal health officials April 13-23.
Prior to the pause, Suttle said Meridian had initially given out 200 J&J vaccines to its various group home locations. It then received another 100 doses from the Delaware County Health Department, which were given out at a satellite clinic event at Urban Light Community Church.
The J&J vaccines will continued to be offered at the one-day community events, Suttle said, with the next scheduled for May 19 at Urban Light. The event will offer both J&J and Moderna vaccines, with no appointment needed. This event also will provide the second dose for those who received the first round of the two-dose Moderna vaccine at an earlier event.
When the J&J pause initially happened, Suttle said many patients said they would wait for its return rather than get a Moderna vaccine.
“People are saying, ‘I’ll wait until they’ve reviewed it, until they say it’s safe again. I just want the one and done,’ you know, they’re still saying that’s what they want,” Suttle said.
Like other local vaccine sites, Meridian has also noticed a decrease in interest for the vaccine, no matter what type.
One reason, Suttle said, could be the side effects people are experiencing, whether it be headaches, arm soreness, nausea or fever. While there’s still plenty of the population coming back for their second vaccine, some have skipped out. That’s why Meridian has been as transparent as possible about side effects.
“We’re just doing as much as we can to help them to feel better and more comfortable about that,” Suttle said.
Another reason could be that it’s not necessarily people declining the vaccine, Suttle said, but that there are more communities local healthcare systems need to reach.
Meridian, Open Door and IU Health have all been working to reach underserved areas in Muncie and Delaware County, whether it be going into neighborhoods to offer vaccines or offering rides to any clinic in the state.
“I think it’s about getting it to people in locations and educating them about it,” Suttle said. “I think in the next couple of months, being able to do that is really going to be a huge benefit for us in the summer.”