Direct Relief has been providing millions of critical COVID-19 protection supplies to every state in the U.S., territories and at least 100 countries.
Now the organization is locked, loaded and ready to provide its services in the vaccine distribution efforts.
The Goleta distribution center now has the capacity to store tens of millions of vaccine doses, including Pfizer, Moderna and soon Johnson & Johnson. While they haven’t received any actual doses yet, they’re ready for when supply increases.
“We’ve just seen … and realize emergencies happen in all sorts of places,” Thomas Tighe, Direct Relief president and CEO, told the News-Press Friday. “COVID is an extreme example of that, where it’s simultaneously occurring emergencies everywhere. We will bend over backward and do anything for our hometown, obviously, that’s carried this organization for the past 72 years.”
Direct Relief now has four freezers that can get as cold as -70 degrees Celsius to store the Pfizer vaccine, two freezers that get down to -20 degrees Celsius for the Moderna vaccine and a 4,000 square foot pharmaceutical grade refrigerator room (-2 to -8 degrees Celsius) for the J&J vaccine if needed.
The organization is also building another 6,000 square foot refrigerator room to store vaccines.
Direct Relief signed an agreement with the state of California to serve as part of the state’s official vaccination plan, so the organization awaits direction (and supply) from the state level.
“We’re happy to do it free of charge because this is what we do,” Mr. Tighe said. “So whatever the state would ask us to do that’s consistent with the state’s official needs, we’re happy to do.”
So far, Direct Relief’s COVID-19 response has included: $50 million in cash funding disbursed; 29,000 emergency aid shipments delivered; 2,400 tons of PPE and other medical resources provided; 69 million masks; 2.6 million face shields; 8.2 million gloves; 1.8 million gowns and coveralls; and $1.3 billion in medical aid. Now they can add storage space for tens of millions of vaccine doses to that list.
“We work with a lot of stuff, but I think the purpose is to do whatever we can for people,” Mr. Tighe said. “The loss of life and fear people are living with — it’s heart wrenching to see what people are going through.
“For us, it’s really a privilege to be able to participate and help in whatever way we can, and we’re deeply grateful for the support … We’re entirely privately funded so it’s really a reflection of the great generosity in Santa Barbara.”
When Direct Relief receives vaccine doses, a top priority for the aid distributors will be local community health centers, which serves a high percentage of ethnic and racial minorities who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
To learn more or donate, visit directrelief.org.