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"We are all accountable" | Shelby County Health Director responds to state investigation on wasted vaccine doses, excess inventory

Dr. Alisa Haushalter said she has no plans to resign, and Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said he wants her to stay on.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — "With this event specifically, my responsibilities as a leader is to very transparent about what happened," Dr. Alisa Haushalter said.

Wednesday, Shelby County Health Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter faced the media and took the heat.

"We are all accountable," Dr. Haushalter said.

She responded to a scathing update Tuesday from Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey, after state investigators uncovered seven incidents of vaccine waste totaling more than 2,400 wasted doses and 51,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine in inventory - about 30,000 doses above the recommended level. 

"The ability to take inventory has been challenged, so we've made sure since then that multiple people, including myself, can access the pharmacy," Dr. Haushalter said.

Dr. Haushalter said the department's longtime chief of nursing Dr. Judy Martin retired and a contract pharmacist moved on.

It's one piece of an ongoing review and overhaul of the health department's vaccine performance.

"We look at one processes that included communications within the processes. We looked at procedures in place, either written or not written, and then we looked at personnel," Dr. Haushalter said."

RELATED: State health department investigates SCHD after over 2400 vaccine doses were wasted

"Frustration and disbelief and disappointment all around, it's unacceptable," Shelby County Commissioner Amber Mills said.

Commissioner Mills and her colleagues asked Dr. Haushalter questions in closed session Tuesday night. 

Additional recommended staff changes from the Shelby County Commission could be on the table.

"We'll take a wait and see approach. We'll let the investigation conclude and then I think well be in a better position to make decisions at that point of time," Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner said.

Vaccine appointments will continue this week as planned but could change in the weeks ahead with the City of Memphis now overseeing all mass vaccination sites.   

Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey released this statement Tuesday regarding the ongoing investigation of reported wastage of COVID-19 vaccine in Shelby County:

“With today’s confirmation of stockpiling the vaccine, the mayor‘s statements have alerted us to yet another significant violation with the Shelby County Health Department’s vaccine management. These statements reflect that vaccines were inappropriately withheld from an in-phase population over the course of several weeks. Stockpiling for a later phase is not authorized, and this action unnecessarily prohibited high-risk elderly individuals from receiving their fair share of this limited and life-saving resource.”

Early Treatment for COVID-19 An effective early treatment is available for persons who test positive and have the following risk factors: Anyone over age 12 with obesity, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, or whose immunity is compromised by disease or prescription treatments.

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