OSAGE, Iowa - The plan to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine could be finalized before the planned date of mid-December. And one North Iowa hospital is preparing for when that moment happens.
The Mitchell County Regional Health Center recently received an ultra-low freezer that can hold 20-40,000 doses of the vaccine. Pharmacy manager Marlin Duren says the need for a freezer came out of discussion of what was needed for the vaccine, which has special requirements and will lose potency if not kept at an ultra-low temperature.
"Storage was a big concern. Dry ice is what these vaccines can be stored on, but we wanted to remove some of those variables, especially in rural Iowa, we don't have the resources that other people do."
The hospital, being one of a few in the state that have this type of freezer, has already received so much attention that the state of Iowa has inquired about storing the state's supply in it.
"We're able to store that in the northern part, so it should help decrease some of the issues with transferring and shipping it around. If we can some permanent storage up here, it'll just eliminate some of those issue with transporting."
In addition, if there's any major power outage, the freezer can run off of backup power, either through the hospital or through the city, to keep the vaccine chilled. Josh Byrnes with Osage Municipal Utilities says it's vital to have this type of backup system in place for a situation like this.
"We're going to keep those lights on and we're going to keep those coolers froze and that product safe. That's one of the huge benefits that we have in the community of Osage."
The freezer is set at -80 degrees Celsius, which translates to -112 degrees Fahrenheit, and can go as low as -126 degrees Fahrenheit. In comparison, most freezers can only reach a temperature of about -13 degrees Fahrenheit.