No, this isn’t a story about the J&J vaccine, which is still on “pause” anyway. But it’s yet another headline that the nation didn’t need as the vaccination effort rolls on. Out in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at the Dr. Moma Health and Wellness Clinic, a vaccination pod had been set up and in operation for several months. But on April 6, something went seriously wrong. The pod was humming along, administering nearly 4,000 first doses that day. But a few days later, all of those people began receiving calls and emails from the state health department telling them that the doses they received were given from a batch of vaccine that had been kept in “inadequate” storage and was likely “useless.” No further instructions as to what to do next were provided and they were asked to stand by. Now all of those people have a lot of questions that the medical community doesn’t appear prepared to answer. (CBS Denver)
“I had a funny feeling about it, too, but decided to go ahead with it just because there were so many people there waiting for their vaccinations. They were super nice. The staff was friendly. It just didn’t feel like a medical situation,” said Darcy Stricker who drove from the Denver area to finally get her first dose on April 6.
A few days later, Stricker and many more people received an email from the state stating the storage was inadequate and their vaccine dose is likely ineffective.
“They said it affected almost 4,000 individuals and they canceled over 7,000 appointments,” Stricker said. “I’m nervous and angry, to be honest. I’m angry that they didn’t screen the medical clinic better. I don’t even know if they visited it, I don’t know what the application process is for these.”
This isn’t a simple matter of putting everyone back in line and just starting over. One of the first of the questions that are going unanswered is precisely what went wrong with the storage procedures. One statement from the Health Department said that storage of the vials was “inadequate” and the vaccine was “likely ineffective.” But a separate statement claimed that the clinic “failed to properly document the temperature at which the vaccine was being stored.”
So which is it? Was this a clerical error or a physical storage error? The difference may be crucial. No matter whether they were using the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, if they were left someplace where the temperature was too high, the vials were probably spoiled and ineffective. But if it was just a matter of failing to record the temperature but they were kept cold enough, all 4,000 of those people have a live dose in their veins.
Now it’s being suggested that everyone come back for another “first shot” in a few weeks. But if they then come back for a “second shot” a few weeks after that and the first dose was actually at full strength, they will have had three shots in barely eight weeks. Nobody has tested the effects of three vaccinations in that short of a time period. When you consider the number of people who have more serious side effects from the second dose as compared to the first, you have to wonder if a third shot would totally floor them.
The Health Department says that the investigation is ongoing. The one thing that seems clear is that they need to find definitive answers to these questions and get that information out to everyone who was impacted by this snafu. And as I mentioned at the top, this isn’t going to do anything to help ease people’s concerns, particularly among those who were already in the “hesitancy” camp.