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California hospital conquers freezer failure to give out 600 expiring vaccine doses in 2 hours

One northern California hospital didn’t have the option of calmly transitioning from the holidays to the new year.

As senior staff at Adventist Health Ukiah Valley Medical Center in Mendocino County held their first meeting of the year Monday morning, they got a surprising announcement: A freezer holding 830 coronavirus vaccine doses had failed, and the doses had likely been thawing for hours. The news set off a wild scramble to make sure the coveted doses didn’t go to waste, regardless of what state distribution guidelines demanded, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Luckily, the freezer contained Moderna vaccines, which don’t require as low a storage temperature as the Pfizer vaccines. But staffers still estimated they only had two hours left to use the doses before they expired. So with the thinking that “the more people we vaccinate just brings us closer to herd immunity,” as Adventist spokesperson Cici Winiger told the Times, they got to work.

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Winiger first tried getting in touch with elder care centers in an attempt to get doses to older people whom the state designated as the first to get the vaccine. The hospital’s chief medical officer drove 40 doses to one elder care facility. The county took back 200 doses it was storing at the hospital, and gave 97 of them to staff at the county jail; “they didn’t think there was enough time to gain consent and organize a safe protocol for inmates,” jail officials told the Times.

Meanwhile, with a big-rig accident blocking a quick route to another nearby hospital, Adventist staffers contacted every medical professional in the area and asked them to report to four distribution sites in the area. Within 15 minutes of learning of the freezer failure, local residents were getting shots, and not a single dose was left unused when the two hours were up. Read more at the Los Angeles Times.