Public health officials were returning from a vaccination site in rural Cave Junction, Oregon on Tuesday when they got stuck in a blizzard on the highway.
They knew they only had six hours to bring the remaining doses of the coronavirus vaccine back to people waiting for their vaccines at Grants Pass, about 30 miles away. Normally the journey takes about 45 minutes.
But with a jackknifed semi-trailer in front of them, the crew realized they could get stuck for hours and the doses would expire.
The workers therefore made the decision to walk from car to car, asking the stranded drivers if they wanted to be vaccinated, on the spot.
“We had one person who was so happy he took his shirt off and jumped out of the car,” said Michael Weber, public health director for Josephine County, Ore.
Another beneficiary, he said, was an employee of the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office who arrived too late for the Cave Junction clinic but got stuck with the others on the way back to Grants Pass.
Most drivers scoffed at the offer of a roadside coronavirus vaccine and politely declined, although Mr Weber said he had a doctor and an ambulance team on hand to help supervise the operation. He recognized that this was not the typical setting for a vaccination.
“It was a strange conversation,” Mr. Weber said. “Imagine being stuck on the side of the road in a snowstorm and someone coming up and saying, ‘Hey. Would you like a bullet in the arm? “
Still, Mr Weber said public health officials administered the six doses of the Moderna vaccine to six grateful drivers.
Mr Weber called it “one of the coolest operations” he’s ever been on and said administering the freeway shootings was an easy decision.
“Honestly, once we knew we weren’t going to get back to town in time to use the vaccine, it was just the obvious choice,” he said. “Our # 1 rule right now is that nothing is wasted.”