Volunteer pilots to test transporting vaccine to West End

PORT ANGELES — The volunteer pilots of the Disaster Airlift Response Team have been enlisted to possibly help deliver the COVID-19 vaccine to the West End.

If deemed feasible, four pilots and aircraft will be on call to transport the vaccine from Olympic Medical Center, where it is stored in a deep freeze, to Forks Community Hospital, which does not have the ability to keep the vaccine at the required minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit.

It would be the first time that the Disaster Airlift Response Team (DART) would be activated to transport medical supplies.

“That’s what we’re there for,” said David Woodcock, vice chair and lead of air operations for DART.

“We train as pilots in the DART program to deliver medical supplies in the event of a major a disaster … so this is really — other than the training sessions — this is the first time we’re actually being called on to do a mission where we can be delivering medical supplies out to them on the West End.”

DART was formed to assist Clallam County Emergency Management with emergency aid in the event of a disaster such as an earthquake, Woodcock said.

Depending on weather conditions, DART will conduct a flight to Forks from William R. Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles today or Thursday to test the logistics of transporting the vaccine to Forks, Woodcock said.

During the test flight, the pilot will transport a foam cooler that is filled with ice and sealed with a thermometer inside to test if the temperature will remain stable enough for the vaccine, he said.

Using pilots to transfer the vaccine to Forks would cut transportation time from OMC to Forks Community Hospital staff to just over 30 minutes, and would avoid potential traffic delays and road issues if transported by car, he added.

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