Shelby County takes action after state investigation finds more discarded COVID vaccines

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said Tuesday the county is taking action and conducting an investigation after learning new information on doses of expired COVID-19 vaccine that were discarded last week.

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.

But Harris said he was given new information on the incident by the state Tuesday.

“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 wrote on Twitter.

The Tennessee Department of Health released findings of its investigation Tuesday afternoon, saying it found:

● Seven incidents of vaccine waste amounting to more than 2,400 wasted doses
● 51,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine in inventory. This amounts 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.

State officials probing Shelby County’s wasted 1,315 vaccines

Health department: 1,315 doses of vaccine discarded after expiration

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.

Director Alisa Haushalter said a pharmacist for the health department, contracted through Regional One, is in charge of keeping up with vaccine expiration dates. During Friday’s briefing, Haushaulter 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.”

In the press conference, Dr. Lisa Piercey, the Tennessee Health Department Commissioner, said the people of Shelby County deserves better.

“The people of Shelby County deserve efficient and effective access to this vaccine,” Piercey said.

The State’s Health Commissioner says the majority aren’t due to bad weather, and they also say they weren’t immediately notified.

“Instead of deploying or having a process for using those extra ones that had already been thawed and were soon to expire they just sat in a refrigerator and left unused,” Piercey said.

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