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Calm in the Middle of the Storm

COVID-19 vaccinations went on at JPS Health Network despite an epic winter storm.

When a once-in-a-generation winter storm left millions of Texans without power last week, it could have left hundreds of Tarrant County residents without much-needed COVID-19 vaccinations, too.

When JPS Health Network team members arrived at the Diamond Hill Clinic the Monday morning after the weekend storm struck, they found the electricity had been out for hours and alarms failed. About 800 doses of the sought-after vaccinations were thawing in the freezer. Quick thinking and a herculean effort on the part of the staff saved the vast majority of the shots and helped keep the battle against the pandemic headed in the right direction.

“I have seen the incredible spirit of this team this week,” Nicole Shoquist, Director of the Pharmacy at JPS, said of the effort to make sure as many doses as possible didn’t go to waste. “Because of the ability to facilitate pop-up vaccine clinics, we had the privilege of taking care of hundreds of patients with vaccines. It’s absolutely incredible.”

When they learned about the power outage, JPS teams deployed in the ice and snow to save as many doses of the vaccine as they could before it thawed and expired.

"The ability to flex and move has been awe inspiring. This team is phenomenal."

Both the Pfizer and the Moderna versions of the COVID-19 vaccination are made from mRNA which is very fragile and degrades quickly if not kept at extremely frigid temperatures, according to the International Society for Vaccines. According to the organization, mRNA is very effective because it “teaches” the body’s immune system how to fight off infection without exposing it directly to the disease. The duo of inoculations are the first of their kind to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In a matter of hours after the outage was discovered, team members administered about 500 vaccines to people from across the community. JPS employees called in patients, worked with the Tarrant County Public Health Department to contact people from its waiting list, worked with shelters to offer vaccines to their vulnerable population—everyone pulled together to try to save every dose they possibly could before time ran out.

Meanwhile, the storm caused the postponement of hundreds of other inoculation appointments scheduled for Monday. By Tuesday, JPS team members had organized a new vaccination clinic that was able to provide shots to 1,000 people – many more than were anticipated in the harsh conditions.

“The ability to flex and move has been absolutely awe inspiring,” Shoquist said. “This team is phenomenal. The culture here is incredible.”