Boat, snowmobile, camel: Vaccine reaches world's far corners

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Luis Alves Nogueira, 74, left, receives a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from a healthcare worker, in the Pupuri community along the Purus River, in the Labrea municipality, Amazonas state, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Getting the vaccine to the world's farthest corners means delivering it by boat to Maine's islands, traveling by snowmobile to villages in Alaska and navigating complex waterways in Brazil's Amazon. (AP Photo/Edmar Barros)

PORTLAND, Maine – After enduring 40-knot winds and freezing sea spray, jostled health care providers arrived wet and cold on two Maine islands in the North Atlantic late last month to conduct coronavirus vaccinations.

As they came ashore on Little Cranberry Island, population 65, residents danced with excitement.

“It’s a historic day for the island,” said Kaitlyn Miller, who joined a friend in belting out “I’m not giving away my shot!” from the Broadway show Hamilton when the crew arrived.

Around the world, it is taking extra effort and ingenuity to ensure the vaccine gets to remote locations. That means shipping it by boat to islands, by snowmobile to Alaska villages and via complex waterways through the Amazon in Brazil. Before it’s over, drones, motorcycles, elephants, horses and camels will have been used to deliver it to the world’s far corners, said Robin Nandy, chief of immunization for UNICEF.

“This is unprecedented in that we’re trying to deliver a new vaccine to every country in the world in the same calendar year,” he said.

Although the vaccination rollout has been choppy in much of the world and some places are still waiting for their first doses, there’s an urgent push to inoculate people in hard-to-reach places that may not have had COVID-19 outbreaks but also may not be well equipped to deal with them if they do.

“It’s a race against the clock,” said Sharon Daley, medical director of the Maine Seacoast Mission, which is providing shots on seven islands off the Maine coast.

And though coronavirus vaccinations can present unique challenges, including adequate refrigeration, health care providers are fortunate to have an infrastructure in place through the systems they use to conduct childhood vaccinations for measles and other diseases, Nandy said.