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April 15 2021 12:00 am

Columbus provider suspended over potential COVID-19 vaccine mishandling

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A Columbus vaccine provider was suspended by the Ohio Department of Health, accused of failing to monitor the temperature at which COVID-19 vaccine doses were held.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, SpecialtyRX, a vaccine provider in Columbus, was given 1,500 vaccines to vaccinate residents at eight long-term care facilities before the new year.

After administering the first doses, ODH said SpecialtyRX had 890 doses remaining. The company was exploring a transfer of the doses to another provider when it was discovered that they had failed to appropriately monitor temperatures in their refrigerator and freezer, according to ODH.

The health department requires all COVID-19 vaccine providers to check and record minimum and maximum temperatures of refrigerators and freezers each workday.

The lack of temperature monitoring means the doses are not usable.

“If you deviate from those storage conditions, you essentially have to waste the product,” said Dr. Zach Jenkins, an infectious disease expert and associated professor of pharmacy at Cedarville University. “You have to really kind of throw it in the waste bin, so to speak, and one of the reason for that is we just don’t have the data to tell us how stable and safe that product is beyond that window of time.”

ODH says the first doses of the Moderna vaccine that were administered to the residents and staff of the long-term care facilities were viable. For the second dose, the long term care facilities will have to coordinate with another provider which will likely be the local health department.

Those facilities, none of which are located in central Ohio, have not exceeded their four-week window to receive the second shot.

“Lost vaccine is lost time,” Jenkins said. “As far as our goal of achieving herd immunity, it delays the time people have access to those resources, which a lot of those priority groups definitely need, so that’s a concern I have.”

NBC 4 made several attempts to speak with someone at SpecialtyRX pharmacy. At this time, they have not returned several phone calls and emails.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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