CHEYENNE, Wyo. – As people quickly learned during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many household staples normally in plentiful supply suddenly vanished from grocery store shelves.
Among those products was any type of hand sanitizer. This shortage didn’t only affect individuals and families; it also impacted health care providers, including physicians in private practice, clinics, assisted living facilities and Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie.
As the shortage worsened, it was unclear, in some cases, how additional supplies of sanitizer could be found.
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Enter University of Wyoming School of Pharmacy Professor Sreejayan Nair. Nair had an idea of how to convert a pharmacy lab into a temporary hand sanitizer factory.
Nair, director of the School of Pharmacy’s biomedical sciences graduate program, presented his idea to School of Pharmacy Dean Kem Krueger and College of Health Sciences Dean David Jones.
“They were both excited and wholeheartedly supported this effort,” Nair says. “Dean Krueger also came up to the lab and helped us label the sanitizer. Because of the social distancing, we had limited personnel working in the lab. Dean Jones made calls to clinics around town and personally delivered the sanitizer.”
To date, containers have been distributed to the Laramie fire stations, UW Student Health Service clinic, UW custodial services, Laramie Reproductive Clinic, Laramie Care Center, the Downtown Clinic, Albany Community Health Clinic and Ivinson Memorial Hospital.
While time was of the essence to begin production, rules needed to be followed in accordance with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) guidelines.
“We used a World Health Organization (WHO) recommended formulation, which is consistent with the FDA’s recently updated policy for temporary compounding of alcohol-based sanitizer products during the public health emergency,” Nair says. “We used the WHO recommended hand-sanitizer formulation, which also has been adapted by the FDA.”
The finished sanitizer contains alcohol, glycerin and hydrogen peroxide. The UW team then puts it in 250-milliliter containers and labels them according to FDA specifications.
As many university employees are working remotely off campus, personnel and lab supplies have been hard to find.
Jack Leonhardt, manager of UW’s chemical stockroom, located in the Physical Sciences Building, is credited with saving the day by providing the pharmacy lab the needed chemicals and containers to allow full production of much-needed hand sanitizer.
“Obtaining chemicals and containers was challenging,” Nair says, noting that Leonhardt “did a yeoman’s job sourcing and procuring the required supplies.”
No one is sure how long the impact of COVID-19 will last in Wyoming or elsewhere. In this regard, efforts such as hand sanitizer production in the UW School of Pharmacy could continue, if necessary.
“We are limited by the supplies,” Nair says. “However, as long as there is a need and there are supplies, we are willing to produce as much as we can. We have prepared about 30-40 gallons as of now.”
This article originally appeared on Cap City News. Used with permission.
The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:
What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.
If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.
Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.
For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email: email@example.com
- Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Stay home if you’re sick
- Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.