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Questions arise about the release of abandoned vaccines in Shelby County


Memphis, Tennessee (AP) —Health Director, Tennessee’s most populous county, said Wednesday that he learned about the waste of the coronavirus vaccine a few days before announcing that the dose had expired.

Dr. Alisa Hauschalter, director of health at Shelby County in Memphis, said at a news conference that wasted doses of the vaccine were discovered while preparing for the winter storm that struck Memphis from February 11. .. 13.

Sub-zero temperatures and accumulation of snow and ice on the roads continued to harsh winter storms the following week, closing vaccination sites and increasing existing inventory as the state continued to provide vaccines to the county. Haushalter said.

Haushalter did not announce that the vaccine dose was wasted until February 19. That day, she said that about 1,315 vaccine doses had expired and were abandoned in bad weather. However, she did not mention doses that expired before the winter storm struck.

State health commissioners said on Tuesday that more than 2,400 COVID-19 vaccines in Shelby County were sitting on tens of thousands of injections that state officials believed were already armed. It was wasted.

The discovery was made after the Tennessee Department of Health began investigating Haushalter’s first report over the weekend that a winter storm had given 1,315 doses.

Health commissioner Lisa Piercy revealed on Tuesday that the problem was far more widespread. She said problems dating back to February 3 include multiple cases of weight loss, excessive vaccine inventory, inadequate records management, and a lack of formal processes to manage vaccines that are about to expire. ..

State investigators came to Memphis to investigate useless vaccines, and Governor Bill Lee told reporters Wednesday that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials were on the scene immediately to begin their own investigations. He said he was expected to come.

According to Piercy, seven incidents resulted in 2,400 wasted doses. About two-thirds of that amount occurred before the storm last week, delaying vaccination in some states.

Piercy also said he didn’t know how the county had accumulated nearly 30,000 excess vaccines in its inventory. The Shelby County Health Department plans to use tens of thousands of viable surplus doses this week.

Vaccine distribution issues had already occurred in Shelby County before the useless dose was disclosed. In at least one example, prospective people moved away from the vaccination site after delays caused them to wait hours for their shots. Those who missed the appointment could change the schedule. There were also complaints about the availability of reservations.

Haushalter said he called state health officials on February 13 to discuss the wasted vaccine, but couldn’t talk to anyone and left a message. Mr Haushalter said there was no response from the state until February 19, when the state began its investigation after a public statement on the waste of vaccines.

Dr. Bruce Randolph, chief health officer at the Shelby County Health Department, said authorities “deeply regret” that the vaccine was wasted. Haushalter did not rule out resignation.

“I am at my own risk and it is my responsibility to take responsibility for what has happened,” she said at a press conference Wednesday.

As a result of the wasted vaccine, the Shelby County Department of Health will not be allowed to allocate the vaccine. This is a rare move by the state that emphasized the importance of local involvement in vaccine deployment.

Instead, Memphis city officials, hospitals, clinics, and other pharmacies throughout the county handle the distribution. Meanwhile, the physical management of the vaccine will be handled by the hospital partner.

Governor Lee accused Shelby County when asked when or if he would obtain authority to oversee the distribution of the vaccine. Instead, the Republicans emphasized that the state’s goal is now to give shots as soon as possible.

“What happens in the future will depend on the amount of vaccine we have and whether the distribution process seems to move forward,” Lee said. “Our job now is to effectively vaccinate the arms of the residents of Shelby County.”

It is unclear how much vaccine has been wasted since Tennessee first began distributing vaccines to its population. The Department of Health has not responded to multiple emails requesting an updated amount.


Kruesi reported from Nashville, Tennessee.


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