DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- A very highly-choreographed logistical dance is underway right now at Duke University Hospital - as doctors and nurses fight COVID-19 on the frontlines while behind the scenes the medical center quickly prepares to get staff vaccinated for the virus.
Duke providing new video tonight to give us an inside look at those vaccine preps.
When Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine arrives at Duke Hospital it will be stored in this ultra-cold freezer, capable of maintaining the necessary -70 degrees Celsius temperatures. As soon as the vials are removed from the freezer, the clocks starts ticking -- as the vaccine can begin to degrade.
That's where this conference room behind the hospital comes in. It's where Duke will deliver the vaccine to hospital staffers immediately after the vials leave the freezer. On the opposite side of the room is where people will wait and be monitored for 15 to 30 minutes; observed for any adverse side-effects of the vaccine.
"We're hoping that we are going to vaccinate all of our staff," Duke's Director of Emergency Preparedness Jason Zivica.
In the first round of vaccinations, 5,000 frontline workers will be inoculated here in what's called the Phase 1-A grouping.
"These are individuals we have identified in our organization that have prolonged contact with high-risk patients, whether that's already-known positive patients or potentially positive patients that we see in our emergency department," Zivica said.
When will the vaccines arrive at Duke?
The Food and Drug Administration is moving toward completing "emergency use authorization" of the vaccine as early as the Tuesday after next. NC DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said her office estimates the earliest shots could start going into arms is December 15.
"December 15 is on the calendar," Zivica said. "We'll be ready."
As COVID-19 cases surge again, Duke sees getting the vaccine to its frontline workers first as the best way to ensure the staff stays healthy to deliver critical care to a growing number of patients inside its COVID units. The hospital pledges to eventually vaccinate everyone from surgeons to service staff
"It's challenging now to try and go through and decide who's going to get it and who's not. We want to be fair and equitable to all of our employees," Zivica said.
It's been an exhausting fight. Duke tweeted a picture, Friday night, as nursing staff celebrated the 1000th discharged COVID-19 patient.
Zivica said the vaccine's looming arrival at the hospital is seen as some light at the end of a very long tunnel.