Following news of yet another potential surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the subvariant of Omicron, many people are facing an uncomfortable feeling: anger.
Two months after reallocating a portion of their resources to meet the need for hand sanitizer at Massachusetts General Hospital, the pharmacists and chemists at the Gordon Center for Medical Imaging have doubled their production and are still going strong.
Production has steadily increased at the center, which is part of the hospital’s Department of Imaging, from 45 bottles a day in mid-March, to its current output of 100 bottles per day. The bottles are distributed throughout the hospital’s main campus and its satellite locations in Chelsea, Revere and East Boston.
The sanitizer is made with ethanol, glycerin, hydrogen peroxide and sterile water in compliance with FDA good manufacturing processes.
"We have a whole factory fill line process going here, where we have chemists and other staff members mixing the alcohol with hydrogen peroxide, water and glycerin in 20 five-liter bulks per day,” says Daniel Yokell, PharmD, associate director of Radiopharmacy and Regulatory affairs at the center.
The process is handled by rotating teams, who start at 7:00 am and finish at about 1:00 pm.
The first team member prepares the materials for each five-liter batch, while the second mixes them together. The third member pours them into bottles while the fourth reviews the process to ensure the sanitizer meets FDA standards for manufacture of hand sanitizer.
When all 100 bottles have been filled for the day, they are handed off to the Environmental Services team for distribution.
The pivot to manufacturing sanitizer has worked smoothly for the center, which is a registered drug manufacturer of radiopharmaceuticals for use in positron emission tomography (PET) imaging at the hospital.
It typically supports both diagnostic and clinical research efforts at Mass General, but with most research labs and centers temporarily shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic (now in the process of reopening), Yokell and the team had the capacity to redeploy staff and supplies to produce the sanitizer.
“We used to make four to five batches of PET drugs a day, and during the shutdown we were only making one,” Yokell says. “So that volume was shifted to the hand sanitizer effort.”
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