When Freezer Broke, Hospital Had 2 Hours to Use Up Vaccine

Community members lined up to help and to receive a dose
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2021 6:02 PM CST
As Vaccine Thawed, Hospital Started Giving Shots Fast
Boxes containing vials of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine sit in a refrigerator at Augusta University in Georgia last week.   (Michael Holahan/The Augusta Chronicle via AP)

It's a pain when anyone's freezer goes out. When it happens at a hospital, and that freezer is storing 830 doses of coronavirus vaccine, it's a crisis. By the time the staff at a hospital in northern California realized Monday that the Moderna vaccine was thawing, it had reached room temperature. That meant the vaccine would only be usable for two more hours, the Los Angeles Times reports. "At that point it was all hands on deck, drop everything," said a spokeswoman for Adventist Health Ukiah Valley Medical Center. The medical staff decided to give the shots to as many people as possible in two hours, not worrying about whether the state's guidelines were being followed. "The more people we vaccinate just brings us closer to herd immunity," the spokeswoman said.

The hospital sent out a mass text to medical professionals. "We just told them, 'Tell everyone you know,'" the spokeswoman said. "We just wanted to make sure none of this goes to waste." People lined up at the hospital, per CBS. The president of Adventist Health in Mendocino County said the community responded. "We had nurses, pharmacists, physicians, even those that are not part of the hospital, coming to help," he said. All of the doses were administered by the time the two hours was up. The only hitch was that on Tuesday, conspiracy theories began going around suggesting the freezer was sabotaged, to make sure certain people received doses. The hospital is using the event to learn how to handle a mass inoculation. "If this is how we do a massive vaccination later, we are golden," the spokeswoman said. "We can do this." (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)

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