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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

Tennessee officials make changes to Shelby County vaccine distribution after investigation into expired doses

The Tennessee Department of health said there were seven incidents of vaccine waste amounting to more than 2,400 wasted doses in Shelby County.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — UPDATE 2/23/2021 - (TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH NEWS RELEASE) - The Tennessee Department of Health today provided information on the investigation of reported wastage of COVID-19 vaccine by the Shelby County Health Department.  

On Friday, February 19, the Shelby County Health Department reported more than 1,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were discarded due to expiration. The Governor's Unified Command Group immediately deployed state health personnel to provide support, review handling procedures and assess the Shelby County Health Department's inventory of vaccines.  

State personnel worked through the weekend to identify issues and needs and as of today, February 23, this is an ongoing investigation of Shelby County Health Department’s handling of vaccine inventory.  

TDH has identified the following issues to date: 

  • 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 

Corrective Actions 

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. Vaccine distribution and administration will continue as scheduled, and Shelby County will continue to receive the full population-based allocation of COVID-19 vaccinations.  

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. 

“Trust, honesty and transparency are key to collaborative partnerships. The preliminary findings of this investigation have led to swift and definitive actions to identify problems and implement improvements the community needs and deserves,” said Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP. “It’s important that we get this right for the people of Shelby County and for the state as a whole as we work to ensure equitable and efficient distribution of this life-saving vaccine to Tennesseans in all communities, especially those most vulnerable and underserved.” 

Next Steps 

Going forward, TDH will assist SCHD with improving efficiency of operations of their COVID-19 vaccination sites. TDH expects federal partners may also investigate the situation. 

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2/22/2021 - (TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH NEWS RELEASE) - On Friday, February 19, the Shelby County Health Department reported more than 1,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were discarded due to expiration. 

The Governor's Unified-Command Group immediately deployed state health personnel to provide support, review handling procedures and assess the Shelby County Health Department's inventory of vaccines. 

TDH is expected to release more information Tuesday afternoon during a 2 p.m. media briefing with Commissioner Piercey.

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2/19/2021 - 1,315 COVID-19 vaccine doses expired in Shelby County during the winter storm this week, according to the Shelby County Health Department.

Most Shelby County Health Department vaccination sites were closed and vaccination appointments because of the ice, snow, and extreme cold. The health director said the Pfizer vaccines that expired were in a pharmacy, and the department did not know the doses were expiring at the time.

The director said had they known, they would have used them for more teachers and those at 201.

Officials said more than 2,000 doses were saved and given away to teachers, emergency management workers, and inmates at the county lockup.

“As a result, the majority of our vaccine was used and we were able to get that out despite all of the inclement weather,” said Dr. Alisa Haushalter.

The Shelby County Health Department said its Whitehaven vaccine site will be open this weekend, however its other sites won't open until next week.