In Fargo, N.D., a state devastated by the virus, the Sanford Health hospital’s pharmacy staff carried out an elaborate plan on Monday morning even before vaccines could start: They unpacked their first shipment of vaccines, which arrived at 7:02 a.m., and rushed them into an ultracold freezer — a delicate, carefully timed operation that needed to happen in less than five minutes to ensure the vaccine would stay at the low temperatures needed to ensure its effectiveness.
Monte Roemmich, the hospital’s pharmacy manager, pried open the box and checked a temperature sensor to ensure the vaccine had stayed sufficiently chilly on its daylong journey from the Pfizer plant in western Michigan to North Dakota.
He slipped on a pair of thick blue cold-resistant gloves and, one by one, scooted the trays into a new freezer that will keep the vaccines at some 94 degrees below zero until they are ready for use.
David Leedahl, the director of the pharmacy, clapped as Mr. Roemmich slid the just-delivered vaccines into the freezer, saying, “It’s even better than Christmas.”
Campbell Robertson reported from Pittsburgh, Amy Harmon from New York, and Mitch Smith from Chicago. Reporting was contributed by Julie Bosman from Chicago, Jack Healy from Fargo, N.D., Frances Robles from Key West, Fla., Denise Grady from Cape May, N.J., Noah Weiland from Washington, Neil MacFarquhar, Sharon Otterman and Lucy Tompkins from New York, Patricia Mazzei from Miami, John Peragine from Iowa City, Marie Fazio from Jacksonville, Fla., Simon Romero from Albuquerque, Colleen Cronin from Providence, R.I., and Will Wright from Jersey City, N.J.