Health officials in Texas scrambled Monday to administer more than 5,000 Covid-19 vaccines after a deadly winter storm pummeling the state caused a power outage in a facility storing the doses.
A backup generator at the Harris County Health Department failed, thawing freezers that kept a total of 8,430 doses of the Moderna vaccine, according to Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
“We got to work under the mission to avoid losing those vaccines with the loss of power, and we quickly put together a plan to allocate and to salvage them,” she said during a press conference. “We were looking for places where there were already large numbers of people.”
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Hidalgo said health officials also sought to distribute the vaccines to places where medical personnel were available to administer the shot and where people wouldn’t have to travel amid deadly wintry conditions.
Of the 8,430 vaccines, county health officials distributed 5,410 doses to five locations, including 3,000 to the Harris County Jail, 1,000 to Houston Methodist Hospital, 810 to Rice University, and 600 to Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital and Ben Taub Hospital, Hidalgo said.
The remaining doses were salvaged after Moderna advised county officials that the rest could be refrigerated and used for patients later that same day.
The spoiled Covid-19 vaccine scare came in the wake of a deadly storm that has battered the country’s south and mid-section, leaving more than 4 million people without power in Texas, as record-low temperatures overwhelmed the state’s electric grid.
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According to poweroutage.us, the areas hit hardest by power outages were in the cities of Galveston and Houston — the same area where Harris County public officials were forced to administer Covid-19 vaccines.
At least 25 people have died because of weather-related fatalities since Thursday, the majority in Texas.
Among the losses were a woman and child who died from carbon monoxide poisoning after a car was used to generate power for heat, according to Houston police.