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State Investigation: 2,400 vaccine doses expired in Shelby County

Updated: Feb. 23, 2021 at 6:21 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A state investigation into vaccines being wasted by the Shelby County Health Department revealed unused shots were tossed out seven times since the beginning of the month.

That’s more than 2,400 shots thrown in the trash.

“When you have a breakdown in a system it’s not just one particular thing,” said Dr. Lisa Piercey.

Related | State investigation uncovers 2,400 vaccine doses expired in Shelby County, other issues with vaccine management

The Tennessee Department of Health found a list of inadequacies inside the Shelby County Health Department and its contracted pharmacy.

Since Friday, the state has been on-site investigating reports of more than 1,300 vaccines tossed out because they were allowed to expire.

Investigators revealed that the number of wasted doses actually exceeds 2,400.

“We found a lack of standard operating procedures for storage and handling of vaccine,” said Dr. Lisa Piercey. “We found no formal process of management of soon to expire product. We also found there was no way for SCHD personnel to access the pharmacy in their own building.”

The investigation also found 51,000 vaccines on the shelves of the health department which is an estimated 30,000 more than what should there.

“Some inventory is expected. You have to be able to plan ahead about a week in advance perhaps longer up to 10 days for those getting a second dose. By our calculations, they should have had about 20,000 doses in inventory,” said Dr. Lisa Piercey.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris released a statement ahead of the state’s announcement on its findings calling the vaccine waste ‘gut-wrenching’.

He said the county employee who manages the relationship between the health department and the pharmacy has been fired and that it was that employee who “allegedly provided the initial false information” on the number of wasted doses.

In addition to the pharmacy site manager who was fired, Harris has also requested for the pharmacist contracted through Regional One to be removed.

A federal investigation is likely, according to the state.

But first, the state wants to correct the problems and that means taking away physical vaccine management from the Shelby County Health Department.

Related | City of Memphis taking over vaccine operations at Pipkin Building

The health department released the following statement on the matter:

“The Shelby County Health Department is working closely with the Tennessee Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find the root causes of the incidents that led to the expiration of the vaccines. We will institute safeguards to ensure it will not happen again.”

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