Moderna COVID-19 vaccines arrive; 21,400 more doses from Pfizer are on the way

PRNG adjutant general says arrival will help supply new vaccination centers and reach more healthcare professionals

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The STAR

After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday issued an emergency use authorization for a second COVID-19 vaccine, this one manufactured by Moderna, Puerto Rico National Guard (PRNG) Adj. Gen. José Reyes announced that some 47,500 doses had arrived on the island Monday.

Reyes also announced that around 21,400 vaccines doses from Pfizer are expected to arrive as early as Wednesday and will be distributed among hospitals, ‘330 Health Care’ facilities, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) groups, and diagnostic and treatment centers (CDTs by the Spanish initials) “as they determined to divide their health professionals into different categories.”

As for the Moderna vaccines, the adjutant general confirmed that they had already been distributed.

“We allocated 10,000 vaccines to the Ponce School of Medicine [at Ponce Health Sciences University], another 10,000 at the Bayamón School of Medicine to the Dr. Ramón Ruíz Arnau University Hospital [located at Universidad Central del Caribe], and 7,500 to the De Diego Research Foundation, another 20,000 to the Puerto Rico National Guard [Headquarters] at Fort Buchanan,” Reyes said.

Meanwhile, he told the STAR that the PRNG will establish 11 regional vaccination centers, starting on Wednesday at Pedrín Zorrilla Coliseum in San Juan, and later setting up operations at the Caguas Fine Arts Center, the Ponce School of Fine Arts, and Manuel “Petaca” Iguina Coliseum in Arecibo.

Reyes said the Moderna vaccine is “easier to manage” because it doesn’t require diluents, can remain stable for longer in a standard freezer (minus 20 degrees Celsius), can be administered for up to a month, and each ampule provides up to 10 doses.

“We will continue to distribute the Moderna vaccine to CDTs, HIPAA groups, and ‘330’ health care centers; likewise, we will use the Moderna vaccine at the National Guard regional vaccine centers,” Reyes added.

The PRNG leader called on medical schools “to get third- and fourth-year students to join in this vaccination effort to maximize resources.”

“We want to reach out to more healthcare professionals and vaccinate them as soon as possible,” he said, noting that on Wednesday the PRNG will train the first set of student volunteers on how to vaccinate properly and properly handle personal protective equipment.

Reyes also told the STAR that, in collaboration with the Puerto Rico Physicians & Surgeons Association and the aforementioned medical schools, the 47,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine will be allocated among medical personnel and public professionals who work in places other than hospitals.

As for the earlier 30,225 Pfizer vaccines, “we have delivered every vaccine that was available,” he said.

“29,775 vaccines were distributed. There’s a difference of 450 vaccines that weren’t able to be delivered due to not having their diluents available,” Reyes said. “Basically, all of the vaccines have been administered, every vaccine is with healthcare professionals, and we expect to do the same with the incoming doses.”

When the STAR asked how the PRNG and the Puerto Rico Health Department will maintain oversight of the new vaccines, given reported allegations of mismanagement of the vaccines, Reyes responded that those making the allegations should be more straightforward and honest if they encounter any negligence.

“It’s important that any person who writes on social media outlets does not speculate,” he said. “It’s important that the information that flows is reliable and correct. People speculating on social media brings a bad taste and bad information.”

“I have seen people who have written that ‘my buddy got vaccinated,’” he added. “Then tell us who your buddy is and tell me where they work so we can take action.”

The adjutant general said the vaccines “come with their own refrigeration system, their own GPS monitor, and we, the National Guard, once we distribute the vaccines, it’s up to the hospitals to manage the vaccines [and deliver them] to healthcare professionals.”

“The Health Department has received confidential tips, and once Deputy [Secretary] Iris Cardona personally addressed the tips and gave oversight on the issue, it was proven that the provided information has not been correct,” Reyes said.

“Our efforts at this moment are focused on administering an organized vaccination process and our priorities are people older than 65, [and] healthcare professionals, and then we will move on with first response and essential personnel in order to later vaccinate the general population,” he said. “There are vaccines for everyone.”

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