A pharmacist at a clinic in Grafton, Wisconsin, appears to have deliberately removed 57 vials of Moderna’s new COVID-19 vaccine from refrigeration, causing the vials to spoil. The accused employee was both fired from his job and arrested on December 31.
On December 30, Aurora Health Care Center in Grafton discovered that the vials had been left unrefrigerated. At first, employees at the health care center believed that this may have been done inadvertently and by mistake, but further investigation revealed that this was done deliberately. According to a statement released by Aurora, the accused individual has actually admitted to removing the vials from a refrigerator deliberately.
According to investigators, it appears that the vials were taken out of the refrigerator on the night go December 24 and left that way overnight into December 25. They were then returned to the refrigerator but were left out again on the night of December 25 and into December 26.
There is an approximately 12-hour period in which it is still safe to administer the vaccine while it’s unrefrigerated, but since workers at Aurora Health Care Center didn’t know what had been done to the vaccine, some people were injected with spoiled doses. Once the clinic realized that the doses had been spoiled, it threw them out.
The hospital is now closely monitoring all those who received spoiled doses, though Moderna says that there should be no cause for concern. The only issue, according to Moderna, is that the spoiled doses will not be effective.
57 vials of the vaccine are enough to dose about 570 people.
Problems With the Vaccine Rollout
This incident is the latest in a series of problems that have been bedeviling the vaccine rollout. Although President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed was able to develop COVID-19 vaccines with unprecedented speed, there have been problems in actually getting vaccine doses to people who need them. That task has been left largely to the states.
Wisconsin governor Tony Evers has complained to the president that his state has both high case numbers and many overburdened hospitals. The state has been allocated a total of 265,575 doses of the vaccine, but as of December 28, only 47,150 people have been vaccinated.
The president took to Twitter on December 29 to say that the federal government had done its part but that states were failing in distributing the vaccines. Many states have complained about not having enough funds set aside for distribution, but the new stimulus package allocates $8 billion for precisely that purpose.
The Pharmacist’s Motive Is Unknown
Police have not released the name of the pharmacist who is accused of having deliberately spoiled these doses, but he is currently in jail. His motive is unknown as of yet.