After hearing about the urgency and need for subzero freezers from the Maine CDC, Jennifer deHart, chief sustainability officer at Unity said, the college reached out to let CDC know the college had a freezer to lend. “It was the right thing to do,” she said.

For the past few weeks the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has been preparing for this event by acquiring subzero freezers needed to store the vaccine.

Unity College staff, along with crews from Maine Department of Transportation and the National Guard, gingerly loaded the college's -80 C freezer onto a DOT truck Dec. 9, headed for the Maine CDC facility in Augusta in anticipation of the vaccine's arrival.

deHart said the school's lending its subzero freezer to the state was a “coincidence of opportunity.” The state had a need, and not everyone has such a specialized device, she said.

The collaboration between Maine CDC, the National Guard,  and DOT allows for the state to react very quickly and speaks volumes for partnerships made with all hands on deck, deHart said.

Dr. Melik Khoury, president of the college, said Unity is fortunate to have a number of specialized pieces of equipment in its labs and that it was in a unique position to help.

“The sooner we can get a general control of this virus,” he said, “and get everyone vaccinated, the sooner we can move on.

“It really is the least we can do,” Khoury said.

Robert Long of Maine CDC said that in addition to Unity, Colby College and the University of New England have also lent ultra-cold storage freezers that are now available to store the vaccine at a secure CDC site. The University of Maine System, Southern Maine Community College, and Bates College are among other schools that offered ultra-cold storage capacity.

Initially six locations will receive 975 doses each. These include Maine Medical Center in Portland, Northern Light Mercy Hospital in Portland, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, Northern Light A. R. Gould Hospital in Presque Isle, and Maine CDC.

Long said the remaining 6,825 doses will be administered to residents of long-term care facilities in the state, through a collaborative agreement with elder care facilities and pharmacies.

"Please note that the state’s vaccination plan calls for these doses to be administered soon after arrival in Maine," Long said, "so storage is secondary to vaccine distribution at this time.

"We have capacity to store Pfizer vaccine sent to Maine, but the priority is getting it into the arms of essential workers and the vulnerable people for whom they care."