A call to arms: Quick thinking and fast action rescues 1600 vaccine doses after freezer failure

A broken freezer containing over sixteen hundred COVID-19 vaccine doses could have proven catastrophic. Instead, quick thinking and bold action turned a disaster into a bit of a miracle in Seattle. When it became clear that the Moderna doses would rapidly expire, two clinics split the doses and sent out the late-night call to arms, so to speak.

In the end, every dose got used, and over sixteen hundred fortunate Seattle residents got ahead of the vaccination curve:

Hundreds of people rushed to Seattle University and University of Washington clinics late Thursday night to try and receive a COVID-19 vaccine before the doses expired.

Spokespeople for both Swedish and UW said that a freezer storing Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine broke at Kaiser Permanente, leaving 1,650 doses of the vaccine at risk of expiring.

Swedish and UW split the doses and began administering them.

“Teams worked vigilantly and in close partnership through the night and early morning to ensure all doses were used and no vaccination lost,” a Kaiser Permanente Washington representative said.

Given the highly regulated environment in which this effort took place, this quick thinking and nimble action is all the more impressive. We have already heard stories of doses spoiling, either accidentally or under more suspicious circumstances, and we should expect at least the former kind of hiccup to occur occasionally. Ordinarily, the regulations and penalties for violating them might have put the doses in the trash, as this early stage of vaccinations doesn’t exactly reward outside-the-box thinking.

For instance, as more than one person pointed out on Twitter, Andrew Cuomo’s draconian penalties for vaccinating outside his rigid regime would have never produced this kind of extemporaneous work-around. Hundreds of people would never have gotten these doses. Instead, given room for innovation and creative thinking, Seattle health-care providers turned a failure into a rousing success, and all between 11 pm and 2:30 am.

The men and women who took these steps to protect their community and get the most out of every dose of those endangered doses deserve commendations. Let’s hope that we start seeing enough of these doses soon, so we don’t have to stick to the rigid distribution models in the first place.

Addendum: Note too where this took place — in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. That’s where anarchists seized several blocks of the city in June and created the CHAZ — Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. Imagine if the city was still tolerating that when this took place. Innovation and creativity require public order and stability as well as room to make quick decisions without draconian penalties.