A hospital employee in Grafton, Wisconsin, has been fired for allegedly removing vials of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from refrigeration and intentionally leaving them out, which spoiled them.
Aurora Health Care Center revealed its findings on Wednesday evening, saying that fifty-seven vials — enough vaccine doses for more than 500 people — at its Grafton location had been “intentionally” left out of the pharmacy refrigerator. Previously, the health care center said they were forced to discard vaccines that had been “inadvertently” left out of the refrigerator.
The health care center acknowledged the discrepancy between its prior statement and its most recent statement, saying that their prior statement was the result of an internal review. “The individual in question today acknowledged that they intentionally removed the vaccine from refrigeration,” said the health care center on Wednesday.
Health care workers managed to administer some of the vaccine doses within the 12-hour post-refrigeration window, but the majority of the doses could not be used in time and had to be discarded due to spoilage concerns, according to health care officials.
“We continue to believe that vaccination is our way out of the pandemic,” said the health care center in a statement. “We are more than disappointed that this individual’s actions will result in a delay of more than 500 people receiving their vaccine.”
The health care center said that the authorities have been notified.
The spoilage comes as the federal government has lagged behind on its distribution goals, and as many state governments have lagged behind in vaccine administration.
According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine tracking dashboard, nearly 12.5 million doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have been distributed since they received FDA emergency authorization. However, only 2.8 million doses have been administered as of Wednesday morning. (The CDC’s dashboard data likely lags by several days.)
At the federal level, U.S. officials hoped to have 20 million COVID-19 vaccines administered in 2020. But earlier this month, Operation Warp Speed COO General Gustave Perna said these vaccines would only be allocated, not shipped, by year’s end.
“We agree that that number is lower than what we hoped for,” said Warp Speed’s Dr. Moncef Slaoui of the vaccine administration efforts, reports The New York Times. He added: “We know that it should be better, and we’re working hard to make it better.”
Michael Pratt, a Health and Human Services spokesperson, has pointed to the U.S. government’s 2020 vaccine allocation efforts as a success for Operation Warp Speed.
“These doses are being distributed at states’ direction to the American people as quickly as they are available and releasable, and the rapid availability and distribution of so many doses – with 20 million first doses allocated for distribution just 18 days after the first vaccine was granted emergency use authorization – is a testament to the success of Operation Warp Speed,” said Pratt, who told CNBC in a statement that all of those allocated COVID-19 vaccines should be distributed to states by the first week of January.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert at the White House, told CNN on Tuesday that he believes “we are going to see an increase in momentum” come January.
Vaccine administration has also been a state-level challenge, as President Donald Trump noted in a recent tweet in which he accused states of not distributing quickly. “It is up to the States to distribute the vaccines once brought to the designated areas by the Federal Government. We have not only developed the vaccines, including putting up money to move the process along quickly, but gotten them to the states,” said Trump.
It is up to the States to distribute the vaccines once brought to the designated areas by the Federal Government. We have not only developed the vaccines, including putting up money to move the process along quickly, but gotten them to the states. Biden failed with Swine Flu!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 29, 2020
State and local officials have pointed to the need for more distribution funding. This problem, however, should be addressed by the recent stimulus package, which includes over $8 billion for vaccine distribution efforts, according to The New York Times.
Perna emphasized Wednesday that individual states have the final role in administering COVID-19 vaccines to the general public, and said that the federal government has helped state and local governments with vaccine coordination efforts, reports The Washington Post.
Although the CDC has provided recommendations as to who should be prioritized for early COVID-19 vaccine access, ultimately, each of the fifty states has been responsible for determining where the first — and next — doses should go.
For example, Florida has prioritized the elderly for vaccinations, a contrast with the CDC recommendations, which suggest certain essential workers and Americans over the age of 74 should share in early vaccine priority after nursing home residents and health care workers have received them.
Governor Ron DeSantis (R) defended the position to vaccinate the elderly on Wednesday after he was asked by a reporter if he had received a COVID-19 vaccine himself. “What I’ve said is, I’m willing to take it, but I am not the priority; they’re the priority,” said DeSantis. “I’m under 45. And so, people under 45 are not gonna be first in line for this.”
“When it’s my turn, I will take it, but this is who I want to be vaccinated: I want my parents, our grandparents to be able to get it,” he added.
In California, on the other hand, the groups that will be vaccinated after nursing home residents and hospital staff will likely include people over the age of 75, people who work in education, emergency service workers, and agriculture and food workers, reports ABC-30. The news agency reports this grouping will likely be finalized this week, and vaccinations for those in the group will begin in January.