Whitman County has received the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine. Washington State University is storing the vaccine in ultra-cold freezers, which are capable of maintaining the -80 degrees Celsius temperature required for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine prior to being diluted and administered for use.

“Having this vaccine will allow protection of both individuals involved in our healthcare systems and the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Guy Palmer, professor of pathology and infectious diseases and one of the leaders of the WSU’s COVID-19 task force. “By doing those two things, we have a chance to really make a huge difference in a short period of time and reduce the potential of overwhelming our healthcare systems with hospitalizations from COVID-19.”

The university was enlisted by Gov. Jay Inslee to assist in storing the state’s vaccine supplies because of the availability of the needed ultra-cold freezer equipment.

High-risk healthcare workers as well as staff and residents of long-term care facilities will be the first to receive vaccinations as part of the state’s distribution plan. More information on the first phase of the state’s plan is available online.

The vaccine is given in two doses 21 days apart, with clinical trials showing it is 95% effective at preventing COVID-19 inflection beginning seven days after the second dose.

Approximately 62,400 doses of the vaccine are being delivered across the state of Washington this week.