Pfizer vaccine delivered to Chickasaw Nation; inoculations begin

ADA, Okla. – In the early morning hours of Dec. 16, Rhonda Brown, a Chickasaw elder and laboratory phlebotomy supervisor with the Chickasaw Nation Department of Health, received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination among Chickasaw employees.

“Everyone should take the opportunity to take the shot,” Mrs. Brown said. “The vaccine is going to help a lot of us be healthier and more optimistic.”

The Chickasaw Nation joined other entities nationwide in receiving the first doses of vaccine for health care providers.

Two days prior, Sandra Lindsay, a critical care nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York, symbolized the beginning of the national COVID-19 vaccination rollout when she received the first official U.S. COVID-19 vaccination shortly after 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 14.

Both Mrs. Brown and Ms. Lindsay received the vaccine produced by Pfizer. Both have been working on the front lines of the pandemic, providing direct health care to patients.

Governor Bill Anoatubby said the vaccine’s arrival marked a great day in the Chickasaw Nation.

“As we celebrate this great day, we must remain committed to the safety of those around us,” Gov. Anoatubby said. “The COVID-19 vaccine is one more step in stopping the pandemic, which requires the use of all available tools. The combination of getting vaccinated and continuing to follow safety recommendations offers the best protection from the virus. We urge citizens everywhere to continue to wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance. We encourage citizens to receive the COVID-19 vaccine once it is available.”

As Mrs. Brown and Ms. Lindsay were vaccinated, the effort to distribute the vaccine by land and air was underway. Following emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), workers at a manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Mich., began sending the first U.S. shipments of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine.

This cross-country transit allowed for the first injections targeting high-risk health care workers. Nearly three million doses were administered. These same people will receive a second and final dose 21 days after the first injection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised that vaccination supplies will increase over time and all adults should be able to be vaccinated in 2021.

Pfizer’s vaccine

There are several COVID-19 vaccines being developed and tested. The vaccine produced by Pfizer was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in trials. The trials included 43,538 participants.

It utilizes technology that works differently than common flu vaccines, though both cause the body to develop antibodies to protect against infections.

Flu vaccines often rely on inactivated viruses or a single protein from the flu virus to get the body’s immune system trained to fight specific strains of the flu. The COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer uses mRNA to help our bodies develop immunity.

According to the CDC, mRNA vaccines contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19, which gives our cells instructions on how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future.

Those receiving COVID-19 vaccinations are receiving material that trains the body’s immune system. They are not receiving an inactive version of the virus itself.

With the Pfizer vaccine, after two doses protection is achieved 28 days after the initiation of the vaccination.

Based on its current projections, Pfizer expects to produce up to 50 million global vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

Pfizer began development of the vaccine in January, just after the genetic code of the virus was mapped. Now, a tested, finished and approved product has made it to hospitals across the country.

The vaccine was developed, tested and granted emergency approval within a year. The process relies on scientific advances more than a decade in the making, and people have been working on mRNA vaccine technology since the 1990s.

The FDA granted emergency use authorization to Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend the Pfizer and BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for people ages 16 and older.

Pfizer is a proven, reliable multinational vaccine producer. It has supplied vaccines to more than 165 countries and manufactures more than 200 million doses of vaccines annually.

On Dec. 18, the FDA granted emergency use authorization for another COVID-19 vaccine produced by the pharmaceutical maker Moderna. The Chickasaw Nation will soon be receiving shipments of that vaccine, as well.

The Chickasaw Nation and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine

The Chickasaw Nation is preparing to assist the state of Oklahoma with the distribution of vaccines once they are available to targeted, high-risk priority groups, as well as the public.

The new Emergency Multi-Use Facility in Ada will be pivotal for vaccine distribution in the area once vaccines are publicly available.

The new facility will serve as a unified incident command center as well as a COVID-19 drive-thru testing and vaccination site for the community.

The Chickasaw Nation will be able to manage 16 lanes of traffic to drive through and receive vaccines.

When planning the facility, care was taken to ensure adequate storage capacity and space for the ultralow temperature freezers needed to store the Pfizer vaccine.

The facility will serve as a mass immunization site when a vaccine becomes readily available. It will also be a community-based distribution point for additional services such as emergency rations, water and personal protective equipment.

Expansions to the Chickasaw Nation Ada South Campus will also play a role in the response to COVID-19.

New space was required for the five new laboratory instruments purchased for COVID-19 diagnostics, including state-of-the-art rapid testing and antibody machines.