Northern Michigan University's Health Center is preparing to administer COVID-19 vaccine doses when they become available. Northern does not know when doses will arrive, but will follow the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and CDC Guidelines when they do. Staff members and representatives of the university's COVID-19 response team met last week to coordinate efforts to communicate future availability, prioritize and schedule eligible groups, and plot the logistics of holding vaccine clinics in the Northern Center.
NMU will operate the vaccine clinics similar to the Passport to Campus mass COVID-19 testing events held at the beginning of both semesters this academic year. Emails will be sent to eligible individuals based on priority criteria and availability.
“I've reached out to Human Resources and we are coding NMU community members in priority categories that align with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services' phased-in approach,” said Mike Bath, NMU police chief and COVID-19 response team co-chair. “Then Chris Danik [director of software development and mobile apps] will tie it to our passport technology system and it will just be a matter of how many doses we receive and how far down the list we can go with what's available.”
Top-tier front line essential workers at NMU have already been vaccinated. The remaining groups, in priority order that will be phased in gradually based on MDHHS guidelines and available supply, are: current employees 65 and older; other essential frontline workers—dining employees, as one example; those under 65 with pre-existing conditions and remaining essential workers; and finally, remaining individuals under 65.
“Which category people fall in depends on their level of interactivity with other people on campus during their workday,” said Cindy Paavola, co-chair of the COVID-19 response team. “And it's not just volume of interaction, but the type of interaction. Michigan universities have been making the point that faculty teaching in person should be included in the higher category designated for K-12 teachers, but at the moment they are not.”
“The emphasis is on vaccinating those who are regularly on campus,” said Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick, NMU Health Center medical director. “Retirees and spouses are encouraged to pursue potentially faster options through the Marquette County Health Department or pharmacies. However, if the number of shipments and availability allow, those individuals will be eligible for vaccines through the Health Center if they haven't already obtained them elsewhere.”
NMU will not know until the initial notification whether it will receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The one developed by Johnson & Johnson's isn't expected to be available until possibly late March.
The Pfizer vaccine is more challenging in that it requires deep-freeze storage temperatures between -76 and -112 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and must be reconstituted. The Health Center has obtained a So-Low brand ultra-cold freezer so it can accept either brand.
Moderna is already constituted. NMU Pharmacist Jan Nolan said it is delivered frozen, but would be kept in a Health Center refrigerator, where it has a 30-day expiration date.
“Both Pfizer and Moderna are very fragile,” Nolan said. “We'll need to draw them up at the Northern Center and, once we do that, they can't be jiggled much or anything. It's very specific how they need to be handled. The Johnson & Johnson is a viral vector, so we're hoping that will be more stable.”
In addition to the logistics of scheduling and administering vaccines, Health Center staff will be responsible for entering relevant information in the Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MCIR) database. The MCIR monitors how much vaccine entities have on hand daily and how quickly they utilize it.