JPS worked to get COVID-19 vaccines out during winter storm, but hundreds expired

Eleanor Dearman
·3 min read

More than 300 COVID-19 vaccines in Tarrant County went to waste due to the winter storm that left millions in the state without electricity.

As temperatures dropped and power went out in North Texas, John Peter Smith Hospital hustled to get as many shots in arms as possible. At the Diamond Hill Health Center, an outage left hundreds of doses at risk of squandering.

“JPS teams deployed in the ice and snow to save 800 doses of the vaccine before they thawed and expired,” JPS spokesperson Diana Brodeur said in an email. “From there, they worked fast: in a matter of hours they administered 500 vaccines to people in the community.”

The vaccines went to JPS patients, people on Tarrant County Public Health’s waiting list and those vulnerable for the virus staying at shelters, Brodeur said.

“Everyone pulled together to try to save every dose before time ran out,” she said of the Feb. 15 effort.

But ultimately, 304 of the vaccine doses expired because of the weather — more than anywhere else in the state, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services’ latest report on wasted vaccines.

Vaccine providers across Texas lost at least 797 shots because of the winter storm and related outages, the state’s data shows. Other doses lost due to the weather include a combined 185 from two Bexar County sites, 120 from a site in Erath County, 10 from a site in Parker County and 178 from a site in Upton County.

The number of doses known to be lost to the weather has grown since the Feb. 19 report was published.

Imelda Garcia, who chairs the state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, said about 1,000 doses were wasted as a result of the storm. As providers get back to their offices, more loses may be reported, she said.

“It’s an extraordinarily small amount of the amount that’s actually in the state,” Garcia said.

For the week of the Feb. 15, Texas expected to receive more than 741,000 doses, most of which were reserved for peoples’ first shots. That doesn’t include shots reserved for a federal program that provides vaccine to participating pharmacies. The winter storm delayed the state’s vaccination efforts, including shipments, but providers are working to get caught up, Garcia said.

More than 3,200 doses have gone to waste in the state thus far for reasons such as expiration, refrigerators being too warm and mechanical failures.

As of Tuesday, JPS had administered 41,361 doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

“We worked so hard to save as many doses as we could in extraordinary circumstances,” said Joy Parker, JPS’s vice president of community health. “I am grateful for the JPS men and women who worked tirelessly in the middle of the storm to get 500 doses to our community members at a moment’s notice on a holiday, in a snowstorm, with the clock ticking down to their expiration.”