When more than eight inches of snow fell on Sunday, January 10, the community of Normangee looked like a winter wonderland. Kids of all ages threw snowballs and built towering snowmen. However, when the power went out, the Brookshire Brothers pharmacy staff faced an unforeseeable challenge in the fight against COVID-19.
Brookshire Brothers Pharmacy in Normangee received its state allocation of 100 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine the week before the snow began to fall.
According to CDC guidelines, the Moderna vaccine must be kept in the freezer between -13°F and 5°F. Once the power went out due to the winter storm, the freezer began warming up, along with the 100 doses of the vaccine.
“Once the vials exceed refrigerated temperatures, they must be used within 12 hours,” said Laura Edmundson, Director of Clinical Pharmacy Programs for Brookshire Brothers. “If they aren’t given in that time frame, then they are no longer considered medically safe, and we would have to dispose of them.”
“We knew we had to do something,” said Amy Smith, pharmacist at Brookshire Brothers Pharmacy in Normangee. “We have implicit instructions from the State of Texas that no vaccine should go to waste, and we certainly don’t want that either. We knew we had just a few hours to safely vaccinate 100 people. With the power out and our phones down, there was no way to get in contact with the people who were already on our waiting list.”
So Smith and her staff rushed the vaccine to the neighboring Brookshire Brothers grocery store and began vaccinating anyone who came in to the store and wanted the vaccine.
“We didn’t want to waste the vaccine, and even if we could have gotten in touch with the people on our waiting list, we also didn’t want to risk our patients’ safety by asking them to get out in the snow and ice to get their vaccine,” Smith said.
Smith said she recognizes the frustration many in this tight-knit community are feeling, especially residents over 65 years of age and those with chronic medical conditions anxiously waiting to be vaccinated.
“We want everyone to receive the vaccine who wants it. It was never our intention to skip over anyone,” Smith said. “We just wanted to make sure the vaccine was being given safely, per the State of Texas’ instructions.”
Brookshire Brothers Pharmacy expects to receive another allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine from the State of Texas. As soon as supplies become available, the pharmacy staff will contact those on the waiting list to schedule a vaccine appointment.