Northern California hospital vaccinates more than 800 in just hours after freezer holding COVID-19 vaccine breaks

UKIAH, Calif. (KGO) -- A hospital north of Santa Rosa had just hours to vaccinate hundreds of people on Monday after the freezer storing its Moderna vaccine had broken down.

Staff at Ukiah Valley Medical Center jumped into action, vaccinating some 830 people in just two hours.

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Math teacher Leslie Banta happened to be one of them.

"I am elated. That is not an understatement."

Leslie received her first vaccination, Monday, and has the card to prove it. It happened weeks, maybe even months ahead of schedule, in a victory snatched from what might have been a disaster.

"It is astounding and heroic."

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Early Monday morning, a freezer storing vaccine failed inside Adventist Health. By the time staff learned of it, those vials had a little more than two hours before expiration. Imagine the consequences of such a loss.

"Our main focus was making sure that no vaccine went to waste," said Judson Howe, who runs Adventist Health in Ukiah. His staff bypassed priority lists, gave 200 doses to the county, 70 more to eldercare facilities, distributed the rest to four pop-up clinics, and began making calls. Lines formed via word-of-mouth.

"I got a call after 1:00 p.m. Got vaccinated at 1:30 p.m. The vaccine expired at 2 p.m.," said Leslie.

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Could this have happened anywhere else?

"We're a community that sticks together and that is the benefit of a small city."

In Ukiah, Tuesday, roughly one-tenth of the population has now been vaccinated. That's way ahead of the curve for much of this nation.

"It is amazing how a time constraint can really deploy resources," said Judson Howe.

What is the lesson for the rest of this country?

"It can be done," said Leslie.

"We got 830 doses into arms in two hours," added Judson Howe.

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