Imagine being caught in your car, in a snowstorm, with a bunch of COVID-19 vaccines that are set to expire. What would you do?
A healthcare team in that exact situation made the decision to vaccinate the people closest by—other folks stuck on the highway in the snowstorm.
Michael Weber, Josephine County Oregon’s public health director, and his team of 20 staff members had been giving coronavirus vaccinations at a high school during the day and were set to head back to Grants Pass with the leftover doses when the snowstorm hit, halting traffic. Due to a car accident, authorities had closed the highway, and it would be hours before traffic would be able to continue.
While it’s never pleasant to be stuck in traffic, there was another problem: the leftover Moderna vaccines they were bringing back to Grants Pass were set to expire.
If Weber couldn’t get them back to the clinic on time, they would be wasted. So he came up with an idea: vaccinate the other six drivers stuck with them on the highway.
“I decided to start going door-to-door, car-to-car. We knew the vaccine would not make it back to Grants Pass,” Weber, 40, said. “In all likelihood, it was going to expire.”
Weber’s six leftover Moderna doses, which already had been transferred to syringes earlier on Tuesday, needed to be administered quickly, as the Moderna vaccine must be used within six hours after being removed from its subzero storage and reaching room temperature.
After consulting with his team, Weber and four staff members made their way through the snow. Weber, who was in charge of the paperwork, carried the forms inside his coat. One team member carried the bin with the vaccine doses, alcohol, and gauze. Other team members carried a sharps container and an umbrella to protect everyone from the snow. To round out the team, an ambulance that was accompanying them in case anyone needed treatment for an allergic reaction was present.
You might think people would be scrambling for the vaccine, but it wasn’t easy finding six people who wanted shots.
“We were a little nervous because not a lot of people in this part of the state are eager to get the vaccine at this point in time,” said David Candelaria, 61, a health officer with Josephine County Public Health.
It took Weber and his team about 45 minutes to administer the six vaccine doses.
“We went through a lot of cars before we found six yeses,” Weber said.
Candelaria said one man was so excited that he jumped out of his car and took off his shirt in the middle of the snowstorm. Another woman was shaking, so was so excited. The last person who got vaccinated was a woman who had missed her appointment earlier that same day.
“It was meant to be for her,” Candelaria said.