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How Pfizer Came to the Rescue of the USNS Comfort

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It was around 10:00 p.m. EST when Pfizer got the call. The USNS Comfort—the massive naval hospital ship stationed in New York harbor—needed an emergency order of sterile injectables. Its first COVID-19 cases were arriving on board.

The Comfort had sailed into NYC to treat non-COVID patients and relieve the burden on hospitals. But as ERs and ICUs overflowed, it had to take COVID cases as well. And the ship wasn’t prepared.

That’s when a manufacturer stepped in. Here’s what happened:

On board: 25 ICU patients arrived from a Brooklyn hospital and required immediate medical attention.

  • The doctors on the Comfort needed 9 different medications to treat them, but they didn’t have any in stock.
  • Most crucially, they needed the sedatives necessary for intubation, should patients need to be put on ventilators.
  • So they called Pfizer.

What happened next: Though not an emergency response team, Pfizer’s Hospital Business Unit came together quickly and worked through the night. Here are a few hurdles they faced:

  • Logistics: The medications had to be routed through centers in Tennessee and Wisconsin and then delivered directly to the Comfort.
  • Transportation: They chartered two planes on short notice, to ensure same-day delivery.

Within 24 hours of the initial call, 4,100 units of medication arrived on the Comfort, and medical workers could treat the patients on board. Several more shipments would follow in the coming days, after the emergency had passed.

Weeks later, the Comfort left New York City’s harbor with its mission complete, thanks in no small part to a manufacturer. This is how the industry is responding to the pandemic: at short notice, at odd hours, and with a sense of duty.

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