When a snowstorm left Oregon health workers who were on their way to administer COVID-19 vaccinations stranded on a road, they could have sat and waited for conditions to improve. The Josephine County Public Health workers, however, knew the doses they were carrying would soon expire. So they went into the storm and started injecting stranded drivers, health officials said in a Facebook post.
The workers, accompanied by volunteers, had just finished up a mass vaccination event Tuesday at the Illinois Valley High School, which is about 30 miles southwest of the city of Grants Pass, which is where they were traveling back to when they got stuck. They had planned to administer six doses of the coronavirus vaccination when they got to Grants Pass. Health officials said in the Facebook post that the workers “never guessed they might be setting up an impromptu clinic on the way back.”
“But that’s exactly what happened when a snowstorm stranded about 20 personnel on Highway 199 near Hayes Hill,” officials added in the post. Michael Weber, the public health director in Josephine County, told The New York Times most of the drivers the workers approached laughingly turned down the vaccine offer—but not everyone. “We had one individual who was so happy, he took his shirt off and jumped out of the car,” Weber said. He added that ultimately he understands why some chose not to get the vaccine. “It was a strange conversation,” Weber said told the Times. “Imagine yourself stranded on the side of the road in a snowstorm and having someone walk up and say: ‘Hey. Would you like a shot in the arm?’”
As public health workers, however, the staffers’ perspective was a little different. “Honestly, once we knew we weren’t going to be back in town in time to use the vaccine, it was just the obvious choice,” Weber said. “Our No. 1 rule right now is nothing gets wasted.”
Read the county’s complete Facebook post below:
“When Josephine County Public Health staff and volunteers concluded their mass vaccination event at the Illinois Valley High School this afternoon, they never guessed they might be setting up an impromptu clinic on the way back to Grants Pass. But that’s exactly what happened when a snowstorm stranded about 20 personnel on Highway 199 near Hayes Hill.
At the end of the IVHS clinic, the team had six doses of COVID-19 vaccinations left to administer. Recipients had been identified in Grants Pass, but the snow meant those doses wouldn’t make it to them before they expired. Not wanting to waste any doses, dedicated JCPH staff members began walking from car to car, offering stranded motorists a chance at receiving the vaccine (with an ambulance from AMR-Josephine County on hand for safety).
In the end, all six doses were administered, including one to a Josephine County Sheriff’s Office employee who had arrived too late for the IVHS clinic, but ended up stopped with the others on her way back to Grants Pass. JCPH Director Mike Weber said it was one of the coolest operations he’d been a part of.”
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