Investigation uncovers 7 incidents of COVID ‘vaccine waste’ in Shelby County, 2,400+ doses wasted

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG/WKRN) — On Tuesday, the Tennessee Department of Health provided information on the investigation of reported wastage of COVID-19 vaccine by the Shelby County Health Department.

The Shelby County Health Department revealed Friday that 1,315 COVID-19 vaccine doses that were set to expire had to be discarded after ice and snow closed vaccination sites.

“I learned that the level of vaccine that expired in Shelby County was not accurate. As a result, we understand the state will announce findings and reforms,” Harris tweeted.

TDH’s investigation found:

  • Seven incidents of vaccine waste, amounting to more than 2,400 wasted doses
  • 51,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine in inventory, amounting to an excess of about 30,000 doses. The goal is to administer the vaccine within seven to 10 days of receipt.
  • Lack of standard operating procedures for storage and handling of the vaccine
  • Insufficient record keeping
  • No formal process for management of soon-to-expire vaccine doses

“The Tennessee Department of Health has embedded personnel at SCHD for technical
assistance and monitoring of their pharmacy operation, and has formally requested additional
on-site assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” TDH said in a release.

The department’s release also states the following corrective measures have been immediately implemented:

  • The current inventory of COVID-19 vaccine has been distributed to proven community partners for immediate administration.
  • TDH will direct new allocations of COVID-19 vaccine to the City of Memphis, as well as hospitals, pharmacies, and clinics in Memphis and Shelby County.
  • Physical management of the vaccine itself will be transferred from SCHD to hospital partners.
  • The TDH Vaccine Preventable Disease and Immunization Program is holding daily calls with SCHD leadership to supplement the work of the on-site team.

Harris said the county had terminated the site manager who managed the relationship with a pharmacist in charge of the vaccine. He said that site manager allegedly provided false information.

He also said the county was asking for the pharmacist in charge, who is a contractor and not a county employee, be removed.

The county is conducting its own internal investigation that should be completed in a few days, he said.

Shelby County Health Dept. Director, Dr. Alisa Haushalter said a pharmacist for the health department, contracted through Regional One, is in charge of keeping up with vaccine expiration dates. During a February 19 briefing, Haushalter didn’t explain why the pharmacist didn’t notify the health department.

“The loss of doses of vaccine reportedly during the inclement weather was gut-wrenching,” Harris wrote Tuesday. “I acknowledge that it was extremely difficult to get out some of the vaccine given the impact and size of the winter storm. However, I do not currently believe that the inclement weather completely explains the entire loss.”

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