By CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS) — A Northwest Indiana hospital will be the first in the area to administer the COVID vaccine to healthcare and other frontline workers in that region.

Community Hospital (part of Community Healthcare System based in Northwest Indiana) will receive Pfizer’s vaccines once the Food and Drug Administration approves the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA.)

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Once the first shipment arrives, healthcare workers on the frontlines will be given first priority. They include doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical, occupational and speech therapists, pharmacists, imaging technologists, laboratory technicians, social services workers, environmental services staff, case management, non-traditional providers such as doulas and midwives, pastoral care staff, dental providers and emergency medical services.

According to Community Hospital, the facility will not only work on vaccinating its internal staff, but healthcare personnel in Lake, Porter, Jasper and Newton counties.

“As a leading provider of care for our communities in Northwest Indiana, Community Healthcare System is honored to be a distribution center for the vaccine,” said Alan Kumar, MD, chief medical officer. “We have the resources and storage capability to handle all the different vaccine types that will be released in the next few months and the operational capability to vaccinate a large number of people.”

Community Hospital was picked as a pilot site because of its ability to store the first doses at very cold temperatures reaching -60 to -80 degrees Celsius.

Pharmacist Fred Tokarchuck inspects a new ultra-cold freezer at Community Hospital in Munster. The freezer will be used to store coronavirus vaccine shipments that must be kept as cold as minus-70 Celsius. Credit: Munster Community Hospital

The Pfizer vaccine is given in two doses, 21 days apart. It’s expected that all Phase 1A locations including Community Hospital, Munster, will give both the first and second doses to each person.

The Pfizer vaccine (21 days) and the Moderna vaccine (28 days) which also has applied for an Emergency Authorization Use, require a second dose. The second dose is important for the appropriate immune response with expected immunity within seven days of the second dose. The recipients of the vaccine will be signed up for their second dose immediately following the first vaccination.

Community Hospital established a vaccination clinic which will be open Monday through Friday, to healthcare workers by appointment only.

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“We have set up a vaccination clinic at the hospital’s main campus and have plans to offer more sites in the area once our supply of vaccines increases,” said Kumar.

Phase 1A is expected to last at least through January, depending upon how many vaccine doses are received and timing of the other vaccines becoming available.dd

“We are in constant contact with the state in reviewing the rapidly evolving policies and processes as more information is released,” said Kumar. “The goal is to protect those with the most risk of exposure, prevent them from giving it to vulnerable populations, and to reinforce our healthcare workforce by preventing illness.”

Phase 1B will be available for high risk populations. That includes people who are at particular risk of morbidity and mortality to COVID-19. They could be those 65 years of age and older, residents of long-term care facilities and those with underlying conditions like cancer, chronic kidney disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes.

Phase 2 will also include people who are at elevated risk of transmission because of working or living conditions. That’s people living in correctional facilities, group homes or shelters and people whose in-person work is essential or required.

For the rest of the general public, COVID vaccinations will be, according to the hospital, “determined at a date in the future and that distribution will be divided up into phases as well. Phase 3A continues distribution to the general public through their local hospital or primary care provider’s office.

Phase 3B expands distribution to local health departments and commercial pharmacies which is anticipated at this point to take place beginning in June, 2021.”

For more information about the hospitals of Community Healthcare System including Community Hospital, Munster, St. Catherine Hospital, East Chicago, St. Mary Medical Center, Hobart and specialty hospital Community Stroke & Rehabilitation Center, Crown Point, visit COMHS.org.

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