Oregon health officials on Tuesday warned that severe winter weather in the state has impacted freezers containing COVID-19 vaccines. Health officials also noted that the severe weather will also likely impact vaccine shipments, delaying access to the coveted jabs.
“We want you to know that vaccine shipments may be delayed due to severe weather here in Oregon and across the country. This slowdown and the effects of local winter weather may impact your access to vaccines,” officials with the Oregon Health Authority said on Twitter. Residents 75 years of age or older are currently eligible to receive the vaccine in the state.
“We’re also assisting Oregon COVID-19 vaccine sites that have lost power to their freezers by moving doses to powered sites to avoid spoilage,” they continued, adding that health officials “are evaluating the situation and expect to learn more in the next few days.”
It was not immediately clear where in the state there have been outages that have affected freezers.
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines must be stored at extremely cold temperatures — minus 70 degrees Celsius or below for the former, while the latter jab requires storage between -25º to -15ºC, Moderna says. Breaking the cold chain could render the vaccine useless.
A harsh winter storm over the weekend left thousands of Oregonians without power, many of whom are still waiting for it to return.
In a Tweet on Tuesday, Portland General Electric (PGE) said its system ” has experienced catastrophic destruction due to the nature of this storm” and that it was working as quickly as possible to get power back for all who lost it.
As of Wednesday morning, some 151,379 PGE customers were without power, according to a local news station.
The news comes as winter weather across the U.S. has threatened vaccine delivery and administration in several states throughout the U.S., including in Texas where over 2 million were left without power.
During a White House press briefing on Wednesday, Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said that the administration was aware that ongoing storms were having an impact on distribution and delivery, and that they were encouraging governors in affected states to extend hours at vaccination sites once it was safe to reopen.
“As we’ve lost some time in some states, we hope that our partners will do all they can to make up that lost ground consistent with distributing the vaccine as efficiently and equitably as possible,” he said.
Fox News’ Alexandria Hein contributed to this report.