Seattle health workers raced to inject 1,600 coronavirus vaccine doses in the middle of the night to whomever they could find after a freezer failed

COVID 19 vaccine
  • A freezer mishap resulted in a frantic effort to administer more than 1,600 vaccines overnight in Seattle, The Washington Post reported.
  • Hundreds of people stood in the street in their robes and pajamas after Seattle’s Swedish Health Services tweeted at 11 p.m. that it had vaccines that were about to expire within hours.
  • Workers administered all the shots on time, and no doses went to waste.
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Staff and volunteers at a Seattle health facility scrambled to inject 1,600 people with coronavirus vaccines that were rapidly expiring after a freezer failed, The Washington Post reported. 

The freezer malfunction meant the Moderna vaccines would expire by the morning of January 29, so workers at Seattle’s Swedish Health Services rushed to vaccinate as many people as they could. Within the last 15 minutes, before the shots expired, workers administered dozens of shots mostly on the street. They reportedly injected the last shot at 3:45 a.m. on the dot.

At around 11 p.m. on Thursday night, the medical center tweeted an urgent message saying it had hundreds of available vaccine appointments in the next few hours before the doses expired. Hundred people showed up in their pajamas and robes, the NBC affiliate KING-TV reported. 

Those in line were calling up people they knew to get them down to get a shot, the Post added. 

We were literally like … who can get people here? People started texting and calling and we were just counting down,” Kevin Brooks, the chief operating officer of Swedish Health Services told the Post. “Thirty-seven. Thirty-five. Thirty-three … People were showing up and running down the hall.”

Brooks told KING-TV that all available appointments were filled within 35 to 40 minutes.

The vaccines, which were being stored at Kaiser Permanente, began to thaw after a refrigeration issue impacting Swedish’s vaccines and those that belonged to UW Medicine, the Post reported. 

Jenny Brackett, an assistant administrator at UW Medicine, said when she learned of the freezer mishap she was inspired by another recent instance where vaccines almost went to waste. Earlier that week, after getting stuck in a snowstorm, health workers in Oregon vaccinated stranded drivers before their remaining coronavirus vaccine doses expired. 

While those vaccines were meant to go to other people, “the snow meant those doses wouldn’t make it to them before they expired,” the Josephine County Public Health Department, in Oregon said. 

Brackett told the Post: “When I got the call they’re like, ‘It’s kind of like our snow moment.'”

Read more: Coronavirus variants threaten to upend pandemic progress. Here’s how 4 top vaccine makers are fighting back.

Brackett said she was going through the long line seeking out people who were 65 or older so they could be prioritized. 

“I was a little worried that the line maybe would not be too thrilled,” she said. “You know, that I am letting others go first. But that wasn’t the response I had at all. Actually, the crowd kind of cheered.

While not everyone who was vaccinated was in the state’s top priority category, the center said they would still be eligible to receive their second dose, and they’re just happy nothing went to waste. 

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