HSE forced to discard 130 ‘incorrectly stored’ Covid-19 vaccines

Vials of Pfizer jab which had been delivered to a nursing home ‘cannot now be used’

A member of the cold chain warehouse operations team working in a refrigerated room dispensing thawed vials of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid 19 vaccine. File photograph: Alan Betson

A member of the cold chain warehouse operations team working in a refrigerated room dispensing thawed vials of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid 19 vaccine. File photograph: Alan Betson

 

More than 130 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine had to be discarded after they were “incorrectly stored” following delivery to a nursing home, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has said.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine had been delivered to a nursing home in the Midlands Louth Meath Community Health Organisation area.

In a statement, the HSE said 22 vials of the vaccine were “incorrectly stored and appropriate cold chain was not in place, unfortunately these vials cannot now be used”.

Each vial provides about six doses of the vaccine, meaning at least 132 doses of the vaccine were lost due to the storage error.

A total of 49 residents and staff were successfully vaccinated at the facility using separate doses of the vaccine, the HSE said.

After vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are removed from ultra-cold storage freezers for distribution they must be kept refrigerated between two and eight degrees. The doses must be used within six hours after they reach room temperature.

“It is disappointing for all concerned, residents and staff, and we are sorry that this incident has taken place,” a HSE spokeswoman said.

“We’re very conscious that this is upsetting news for families, residents and staff members who are working hard to protect residents from Covid-19, and we are offering a range of supports to all concerned,” the spokeswoman said.

“The breach has been reported and all necessary processes will be followed,” she said.

The local HSE Community Healthcare Organisation would work with the national office to carry out the remaining vaccinations at the nursing home “as soon as possible”, she said.

The vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are currently stored in a cold chain facility in Citywest, southwest Dublin, in specialist minus 70 degree freezers. From there the vaccines are shipped to hospitals and nursing homes to be administered.

The vaccines are transported in vans with specialist refrigerated compartments to keep the vials between two and eight degrees in transit.

In most cases the vaccine will be transported to nursing homes the day before it is to be administered to staff and residents, and stored overnight in pharmacy fridges.