Sometimes getting vaccinated is all about being in the right place at the right time. No appointment necessary.
That was the case for a few stranded motorists in rural Oregon. A group of healthcare workers were on their way to a vaccination clinic with several doses of the vaccine in hand, but road closures and snowy conditions left them stranded. They opted to start doling out the drug on the side of the road before it expired.
This impromptu vaccination session has since gone viral on social media, reminding us how complete strangers can come together in the middle of a crisis.
A Tricky Situation
The healthcare workers say they had just finished staffing the Illinois Valley High School Vaccine Clinic in rural Cave Junction, OR, and had started on their way to another location with six doses of the vaccine.
That’s when they got stuck in the middle of the highway. There was a jack-knifed trailer sitting in the road ahead of them, so they knew they would be stuck in the snow for some time. There were several people waiting for these six doses at Grants Pass, still roughly 30 miles away, but the vaccines would have expired by the time they got there.
Once the freezer has been opened, the vaccines must be used within six hours before they fall below a certain temperature.
Soon, several cars started piling up behind them as traffic slowed to a halt. At that moment, the healthcare workers decided to make the best of the situation by administering the shots right there on the spot. They started going from car to car, asking drivers if they wanted an impromptu shot.
The local department of health wrote on Facebook:
“Recipients (of the six vaccines) 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).”
Acting on Instinct
Michael Weber, the public health director in Josephine County, OR recalls, “We had one individual who was so happy, he took his shirt off and jumped out of the car.”
As you might expect, some people weren’t willing to have their arms pricked on a snowy overpass. Some people respectfully declined their shots as the providers went from car to car.
“It was a strange conversation,” Mr. Weber said. “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?’”
One of the stranded motorists had tried to get a shot at the Illinois Valley High School Vaccine Clinic, but they arrived too late.
Despite the awkwardness, Weber says he and his team were able to administer all six of the doses before they expired.
As Weber put it, “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. Our No. 1 rule right now is nothing gets wasted.”
Getting shots into people’s arms can be a challenge, especially in rural areas when transportation can be a pain in the winter.
As for the people in Grants Pass who are still waiting for their shots, it’s not clear when they will get vaccinated. The people who got their shots in the snow will also have to schedule a follow-up appointment to make sure they get their second shots.
In the end, Weber is glad he and his team were able to think on their feet. He calls it “one of the coolest operations” he had ever been a part of.
The entire community was thrilled when they heard the news on social media. The story quickly picked up steam until it became a viral sensation.
Many healthcare providers have been quick to praise the team that administered the shots on the side of the road. As one local wrote on Facebook, “Bless you all! What an example of the ‘above and beyond’ kind of spirit and follow-though that is in so many of our public employees! Thank you for not letting those 6 doses go to waste, and for venturing out in a snowstorm to find 6 people to vaccinate.”
It just goes to show you that healthcare providers remain dedicated to the cause – even when things go awry.