Calif. FF-medics administer 850 vaccines in under 3 hours after freezer breaks

The Moderna vaccine becomes useless after more than 12 hours at room temperature, and the broken freezer was left undiscovered for nearly 10 hours

Joseph Wilkinson
New York Daily News

UKIAH, Calif. — A northern California town rushed 850 COVID vaccinations to people Monday after the freezer failed at its main hospital.

Adventist Health Ukiah Valley Medical Center in Ukiah was storing the vaccines from Moderna, but its special freezer broke at 2 a.m. Monday, the Mendocino Voice reported. The Moderna vaccine can only be kept at room temperature for 12 hours before it becomes useless.

Hospital workers discovered the freezer failure around 11:30 a.m., according to the Voice. That gave them 2.5 hours to vaccinate as many people as possible.

“We work well in emergencies and chaos, because that’s when people call us,” Ukiah firefighter Eric Singleton told the Ukiah Daily Journal.


UVFA paramedics and crews assisted local health agencies with a short notice COVID-19 vaccine administration this afternoon. #covid_19 #uvfa #vaccine #covidvacccine #paramedic Photos by Bekkie Emery

Posted by Ukiah Valley Fire Authority on Monday, January 4, 2021

Officials sent several dozen vaccines to nursing homes and 200 doses to Mendocino County’s public health department, which gave them to county employees and jail inmates, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

But no one could transport the vaccines far from Ukiah, about 115 miles north of San Francisco, because a tractor-trailer crashed nearby, blocking Highway 101, according to the Chronicle.

So health care workers alerted people on social media, called in anyone qualified to administer the vaccines and started vaccinating people at the hospital on a first-come, first-served basis, the Chronicle reported. The remaining doses, about 600 total, were gone in two hours.

“I certainly wasn’t anticipating getting the vaccine for another month or two,” 68-year-old Richard Selzer told the Chronicle. Selzer said he was in line as the hospital was running low on vaccines but accepted a call to the front for at-risk people.

“It was a little bit like winning the lottery,” he said. “When I went through and got the vaccine, everyone was being very cooperative. Nobody was saying, ‘No, I need this, not you.’ They certainly can get this vaccine out if they have to. It could have gone really bad. This was good.”

All vaccinated people received a vaccination card and an appointment for the second shot in 28 days.


(c)2021 New York Daily News

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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