Refrigeration Breakdown Prompts Vaccine Scramble

February 5, 2021

The nationwide rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has created challenges for hospitals, and vaccine shortages and scheduling snafus are only the beginning. First, facilities had to prepare their refrigeration systems to provide the storage environment one of the vaccines required. Then facilities had to ensure vaccine storage was reliable.

Several facilities, including Adventist Health Ukiah Valley Medical Center in California, suffered a system malfunction. The facility experienced a power outage, which affected the freezer holding the center’s Moderna vaccines. When officials from the hospital discovered the freezer wasn’t working, they only had about 2 hours to administer the vaccines, which only have a shelf life of 12 hours at room temperature.

Now, a Washington health system has suffered the same fate. University of Washington and Swedish clinics had to quickly vaccinate more than a thousand people recently after a freezer storing 1,650 doses of the clinics’ COVID-19 vaccines stopped working, according to Campus Safety. A freezer storing the Moderna doses at Kaiser Permanente broke that evening, which meant the vaccines would soon expire. UW and Swedish Medical Center split the doses and soon started administering them.

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