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Vaccine clinic in Grand Coulee administers 400 coronavirus shots

Feb. 5, 2021 Updated Fri., Feb. 5, 2021 at 10:37 p.m.

 (Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)
(Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)

About 400 Grand Coulee residents got their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday at Coulee Medical Center, with support from both Samaritan Healthcare in Moses Lake and the Grant County Public Health District.

Coulee Medical Center, a rural hospital at the most northern point of Grant County, cannot store vaccine doses on-site because its freezer does not meet the requirements.

In late December, the hospital had to dispose of 1,000 doses when employees discovered the issue with the freezer, said Ramona Hicks, chief executive officer at Coulee Medical Center.

Coulee Medical Center had applied to the Department of Health for Moderna doses, knowing that they didn’t have the ultra-cold storage necessary for Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccines.

Hicks said the hospital thought it could store the Moderna doses in its freezer, but due to a miscommunication with the state health department, they discovered the freezer was not approved to store them, either.

“I couldn’t, for patient safety, assure the viability of the vaccine,” Hicks said, saying the doses sat at the wrong temperature in their freezer for too long.

The Department of Health had helped Coulee Medical Center through that process, she said, but no storage means no vaccines can be sent directly to the hospital.

Hicks said Prevention Northwest, a company in Spokane, was able to provide doses to Coulee Medical Center staff initially. Since then, they’ve also received doses from Samaritan Healthcare in Moses Lake, which also provided the doses for Friday’s vaccine clinic.

“We’ve turned lemons into lemonade and have a great system,” Hicks said, acknowledging that losing those doses a couple months ago was gut-wrenching.

Grant County Health District has ordered a new freezer for Coulee Medical Center so they can store doses in the future, Hicks said, but for now, relying on community partners has worked. Samaritan Healthcare has been coming out to the rural hospital every three weeks to do a clinic. The next vaccine clinic at the hospital is Feb. 26, and the hospital is scheduling appointments for local residents.

The early loss of vaccine doses in Grand Coulee has not set the community back in vaccine phases. Hicks said the health care and frontline workers who opted to get vaccinated have been, and the majority of people getting vaccinated on Friday were residents who are 65 and older or 50 and older in multigenerational households.

Here’s a look at local numbers:The Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 146 new cases on Friday, and three additional deaths.

There are 83 COVID-19 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Spokane hospitals.

The Washington Department of Corrections announced three more people incarcerated at Airway Heights Corrections Center have died due to COVID-19 since last week. That brings the total number of COVID-19 deaths at Airway Heights Correctional Facility to five.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 50 new cases of the virus on Friday, and three additional deaths. There are 46 Panhandle residents hospitalized with COVID-19.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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