WILLCOX, AZ (3 On Your Side) - 3 On Your Side learned that an Arizona hospital was forced to discard dozens of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine after they were stored improperly.

Northern Cochise Community Hospital submitted a report to the Arizona Department of Health Services acknowledging 70 doses of the vaccine were wasted. The report was dated Dec. 31, 2020, and does not provide specific information about the storage issue.

In an emailed statement to 3 On Your Side, Ainslee Wittig, the hospital’s community relations coordinator, said the spoiled shots were the result of a “process failure.”

“Northern Cochise Community Hospital received its first shipment of Moderna vaccine in late December and we began vaccinating individuals in Tier 1A with our primary focus on hospital staff,” Wittig said. “During that first phase of vaccination, we experienced a process failure that resulted in the loss of some vaccine.”

“We have since worked with Cochise County and state officials to ensure that our processes and protocols are appropriate for the storage, distribution and administration of the COVID-19 vaccine,” Wittig added.

3 On Your Side dug deeper into the records and found two much smaller reports of spoiled shots.

La Paz Regional Hospital in Parker reported four wasted doses of the Moderna vaccine, and an employee of Northern Arizona Healthcare reported a single wasted dose of the Moderna vaccine. In both cases, the reports cited an “open vial/all doses not administered,” which is one of the wastage codes ADHS provides on its “wasted/expired vaccine return form.” Both reports were submitted on January 4, 2021. Neither provider responded to requests for comment.

Will Humble, the executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association and former state health director, says the number of spoiled doses reported to date is lower than he would have expected.

“I’m astonished that the wastage number is that low,” Humble said. “You have a new vaccine with new cold holding requirements, new storage requirements, overworked people and you’ve only spoiled 75 doses out of 250,000. That’s a tremendously good track record and that’s a testament to the health care workers out there in the community that are paying attention to the storage and handling requirements of these vaccines.”

“What I don’t know is that unknown factor which is are there  health care facilities and doctors’ offices and mass vaccination clinics that are not turning in their spoilage numbers properly,” Humble added. “If that’s the case, then 75 isn’t the real number. But if it is the real number, that’s impressive.”

The CDC requires vaccine providers to report all spoiled or wasted doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the “relevant jurisdiction.” ADHS did not respond to questions about Arizona’s reporting requirements or potential penalties associated with spoiled COVID-19 vaccines.


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