More than 2,400 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were wasted by the Shelby County Health Department during seven separate incidents, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.
On Friday, Shelby County Health officials reported to TDH that more than 1,000 "were discarded due to expiration," TDH said. After officials with the Governor's Unified Command Group immediately were deployed to review handling procedures and assess the department's inventory of vaccines.
“Probably the thing that was most surprising and concerning to me is that we didn’t at the state vaccine program, we weren’t notified of this for essentially a week after the last expiration event,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey during a news briefing on Tuesday. “It appears all of these expirations occurred where an entire tray was defrosted and thawed out in the refrigerator, but it was in excess of what was needed.
Piercey said the problems were far more widespread. She said issues dating back to Feb. 3 ranged from multiple incidents of spoiled doses, an excessive vaccine inventory, insufficient record-keeping and a lack of a former process for managing soon-to-expire vaccines.
The Associated Press reported Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris announced that he had fired the site manager who was in charge of the relationship with the contract pharmacist.
“Although the pharmacist is not an employee of Shelby County government, we have also asked for the pharmacist to be removed,” Harris said in a statement. “Finally, we have launched an internal investigation, in addition to the state review that has already opened.”
More than 1,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were discarded on Friday by the Shelby County Health Department, due to expiration, according to Tennessee Department of Health.
On Tuesday, TDH officials released the following issues they found with Shelby County Health Department's inventory of vaccines:
TDH officials said the following corrective actions need to be taken:
“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,” Piercey said in a statement on Tuesday. “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."
TDH officials said the Shelby County will continue to receive the full population-based allocation of COVID-19 vaccinations, according to a news release.
Going forward, the Department of Health will assist the Shelby County Health Department with improving efficiency of operations of their COVID-19 vaccination sites. TDH expects federal partners may also investigate the situation.
Currently, Tennessee ranks next to last among states in terms of the percentage of population with at least one dose. Only Utah has given out fewer doses, according to the CDC. Piercey partly blamed the state's low number of Shelby County's struggle to distribute the shots.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.