A pharmacist from the small Wisconsin town of Grafton has been arrested and charged with deliberately ruining hundreds of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by removing them from refrigeration for two nights.
The Moderna COVID vaccine must be stored in freezers and is viable up to 12 hours after being removed. The unnamed pharmacist removed 57 vials of the vaccine containing more than 500 doses on Christmas Eve and put them back the next morning. He left the vials out on the night of December 25. They were found the next morning by another staffer.
Police have no motive so far for the vandalism.
Bahr said health system officials grew more suspicious of the pharmacist as they reviewed the incident. After multiple interviews, the pharmacist acknowledged Wednesday that he removed the vaccine intentionally over the two nights, Bahr said.
That means that the doses people received Saturday are all but useless, he said. Moderna has told Aurora that there’s no safety concerns, but the hospital system is closely monitoring the people who received the spoiled doses, he said.
According to the Washington Examiner, authorities at Advocate Aurora Medical Center tried to make the best of the situation by quickly administering doses until the vaccine spoiled.
As the investigation unfolded, and the medical center got a better grasp on the situation, they quickly sought to administer some of the vaccines because they are usable until they thaw and cannot be refrozen. Hundreds of doses were discarded, but some were administered, although Aurora health officials raised doubts about the effectiveness of those doses because they were removed from their cooled storage unit twice.
Jeff Bahr, the president of Aurora Health Care Medical Group, called the individual a “bad actor.”
The vandalism calls attention to what is developing to be an epic clusterfark of a vaccine rollout. Governors in both red and blue states have been angry at Washington for not sending them the doses of vaccine they were promised — sometimes hundreds of thousands of fewer doses.
More than 10 states have been told that the number of doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine they were expecting to receive next week has been cut, with little information as to why. State officials in Wyoming, Minnesota, Washington, California, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Connecticut and Kentucky have said they’ve been notified of reductions.
While some states didn’t specify the size of the reduction, officials in Washington and Oregon said their states will receive 40% fewer doses than what was expected. California is receiving 160,000 fewer doses than expected. For Michigan, it’s nearly 25,000.
The Trump administration is pointing to there being a misunderstanding between the feds and the states. The numbers of doses states they were told they were getting were “planning numbers.”
“Potential planning numbers had been provided in previous months with the understanding that they were just that: potential. States were told they would get final allocation before official allocation numbers a week before, depending on the amount of doses available from manufacturers,” the official said.
I call bull crap on that. In fact, official announcements on vaccine distribution said nothing about “planning numbers.” The feds were too optimistic about how many vaccine doses would be available or it’s possible the companies themselves failed to estimate properly. Either way, by all accounts the process is not going as smoothly as was promised.