SEATTLE — The wide-spread consumer panic created by the COVID-19 outbreak has left supermarket shelves bare and the demand to restock them challenging at best.
One product that seems to be especially hard to come by is hand sanitizer. That not only creates a problem in the retail market, it also impacts the health industry across the country as well.
But that’s not an issue at the UW Medical Center, which has devised a way to deal with the shortage.
“As the increase for demand for all sorts of PPE including hand sanitizer went up across the country we expected that we would have a tighter supply,” said UW Medical Center Director of Pharmacy Michael Alwan. “So, we started making our own hand sanitizer to distribute to all the hospitals to make sure we have it available in the areas we need.”
By the end of last week, Alwan said the pharmacy had produced and distributed 100-500 milliliter bottles and are in the midst of making another 8-to-10 gallons of hand sanitizer.
“We’re using a World Health Organization recipe that allows us to make more easier,” Alwan said. “Ethyl alcohol, glycerin, and hydrogen peroxide are the primary ingredients. They are widely available, which allows us ramp up quickly. But these products are USP products so it’s a higher-grade product that you may not be able to find in other venues and that’s what we would always use in a hospital pharmacy setting.
“Distribution priority is the patient care areas where any of the healthcare team coming in and out of a room needs to disinfect their hands.”
In times when commercial products are readily available, Alwan said it’s the preferred method of obtaining the hand sanitizer. But, when they are not, there’s always an alternative.
“It’s been incredibly impressive to see all the members of the healthcare team pull together. Whether it’s something within your department or within your area of expertise, everyone stepped in to propose new creative solutions in how we handle this response,” Alwan said. “We continue to learn. We continue to learn together to make sure we’re improving the health of the public.”
The World Health Organization recipe can also be replicated at home, according to Alwan, but on a much smaller scale.