Stranded health workers brave Oregon snowstorm to keep COVID-19 doses from going to waste
Oregon health care workers this week braved a snowstorm and skeptical motorists in a successful effort to keep six COVID-19 vaccine doses from going to waste.
The employees with Josephine County Public Health were driving back from a vaccine clinic event Tuesday when they got stuck in the storm, along with other motorists.
But the health workers had another problem: They still had six doses of an in-demand vaccine that were about to expire.
The nearly 20 employees decided they couldn’t risk the doses going bad, so they trekked through the snow to offer the vaccine to motorists, according to an account published by the agency on Facebook.
Oregon’s vaccination efforts are currently targeting “frontline health care workers, first responders, residents and staff of residents of long-term care facilities,” according to the Oregon Health Authority. Recently, child care workers and other educators have also become eligible.
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Both COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for use in the United States need to be used within hours of being removed from storage in a refrigerator to be effective. That logistical challenge has led to scattered reports across the nation of vaccine doses being given to people who weren’t expecting them, in an effort to prevent waste.
In this case, the workers were challenged by more than just the weather: Many motorists weren’t interested.
“We went through a lot of cars before we found six yeses,” health official Michael Weber told The Washington Post. He estimated it took 45 minutes to find six people who would agree to be vaccinated and to administer the doses.
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Authorized vaccines are considered safe and vital tools for ending the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans, but experts worry too many people will choose not to get one. The Department of Health and Human Services has promised a long-delayed education campaign aimed at encouraging Americans to get vaccinated.
Josephine County Public Health said an ambulance was on hand for the “impromptu clinic,” just in case there were any rare adverse reactions. (So far, everyone in the U.S. with an allergic response been treated successfully.)
And in an added serendipitous moment, one of the six people to receive the vaccine was a sheriff’s office employee scheduled to attend the earlier clinic but who arrived too late.
“Director Mike Weber said it was one of the coolest operations he’d been a part of,” Josephine County Public Health said on Facebook.
Contributing: Karen Weintraub and Elizabeth Weise; The Associated Press