Local grocery store becomes emergency vaccine hub after a power outage

The Brookshire Brothers Pharmacy distributed 100 vaccines to anyone that walked in the store.
Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 6:01 PM CST

NORMANGEE, Texas (KBTX) -The Brookshire Brothers Pharmacy in Normangee received 100 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at the beginning of the month.

One week later a snowstorm knocked the power out resulting in the pharmacist, Amy Smith, having to think fast to distribute them.

“We knew we had to do something,” said Amy Smith, the 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.”

Brookshire Brothers Director of Clinical Pharmacy Programs, Laura Edmundson said in a press release vaccines must be kept at a certain temperature or risk being wasted.

“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.”

Despite the weather, couples like Ed and Annie Earp took advantage of getting the vaccine when they could.

“I said hurry jump in the car, we can go get the vaccines right now,” said Annie.

Ed said they were already on a waiting list but didn’t expect to get it so soon.

“They said it would be, you know about a week before we could get the vaccine,” said Ed.

KBTX was told that is wasn’t long until a line was wrapped around the store. Some were on the waiting list and some were not.

“When we left, we started calling everyone we knew,” said Annie.

Smith said she knows many have been waiting for their dose.

“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.”

Ed says despite having to do everything last minute he thought they handled it well.

“Even for that kind of an emergency set up it was really well organized. One of the ladies there handed out the papers and Amy administered all the vaccines and it was really, very easy to do,” said Ed.

The couple says they were told to call and schedule their second dose on Feb. 8.

“We hope everyone will be able to quickly get it,” said Ed.

Brookshire Brothers Officials say more vaccines are coming and those on the waiting list will be contacted.

Full press release from Brookshire Brothers:

NORMANGEE, TEXAS (January 19, 2021)… 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 into 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.

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