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

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Days after the Shelby County Health Department revealed that 1,315 doses of the Pfizer vaccine had to be thrown out because they had expired, the Tennessee Department of Health has announced that it will be investigating the matter.  

Friday, Dr. Alisa Haushalter, who heads the Shelby County Health Department, said that the expired vaccines were discovered the previous Friday.  

Haushalter said a Regional One Health pharmacist that is contracted to handle the county’s Covid vaccines had taken the doses out of the freezer in preparation for vaccinations, but when planned vaccinations were canceled due to weather, didn’t notify the health department that the 1,315 were out of the freezer and spoiling. The Pfizer vaccine lasts for just five days once removed from a freezer.  

State officials say they plan to review Shelby County’s vaccine handling practices and that it plans to assess the county’s inventory of vaccines. The Tennessee Department of Health said it plans to release more details about its investigation Tuesday afternoon.   

Dr. Bruce Randolph with the Shelby County Health Department acknowledged the investigation during a virtual Shelby County Commissioners meeting Monday. 

“We’re cooperating with Tennessee Department of Health in order to get to the bottom of how this happened,” said Randolph. 

“The reasons for that is currently being investigated and there’s more to come from that. Dr. Haushalter will have more detail,” he said.  

Haushalter was meeting with educators Monday to review plans for vaccinating teachers beginning Wednesday.  

Shelby County Schools said 6,000 of its teachers will be vaccinated over three days at two sites.  

Lakeland, Arlington and Millington teachers will be able to get a vaccine on Friday. 

Germantown teachers will get their first doses on March 5.  

But questions about the health department’s handling of the vaccines continue to loom large.  

“There’s just a lot of frustration. I know there have been calls for leadership change and that’s really, you know, that’s something that I think should be a last resort,” said Commissioner Mick Wright during Monday’s meeting.  

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