A Wisconsin-based hospital system revealed this week that a now-former employee at one of its medical centers “intentionally” allowed hundreds of Moderna coronavirus vaccine doses to expire, an internal investigation found.
Officials from the Aurora Medical Center-Grafton, which is part of the Advocate Aurora Health hospital system, initially suspected employees had accidentally left the 57 vials containing the nearly 500 doses out of the refrigerator at the hospital on December 26, a press release said on Wednesday.
Health personnel must keep the doses between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit.
An investigation found the now-former employee “acknowledged that they intentionally removed the vaccine from refrigeration,” the press release from the hospital system noted, adding:
We have notified appropriate authorities for further investigation. We continue to believe that vaccination is our way out of the pandemic.
We are more than disappointed that this individual’s actions will result in a delay of more than 500 people receiving their vaccine. This was a violation of our core values, and the individual is no longer employed by us.
The press release did not provide any information on the motive for the heinous act. There is currently a limited supply of doses that states must ration until the vaccine is widely available.
U.S. officials believe vaccine doses will not be available for the general public until around the middle of next year.
In recent weeks, the United States has faced a surge in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.
“The hospital administered some of the doses to employees within the 12-hour limit when the Moderna vaccine can remain without refrigeration,” the Miami Herald noted Thursday. “However, most had to be thrown out, officials said.”
According to Advocate Aurora Health, hospital personnel had vaccinated more than 21,000 employees as of Wednesday.
The U.S. has approved two vaccines for emergency use that require refrigeration and two doses — one developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and the other by Moderna.
This week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, told CNN the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed would miss its goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans by the end of this month.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only nearly 2.8 million people had received the first vaccine shot, with almost 12.4 million doses distributed as of Wednesday.
“Hopefully, the gaining of momentum in January will get us where we want to be” in the vaccination effort,” Dr. Fauci told the TODAY Show on NBC on Thursday.
He called on the federal government to deploy more resources to vaccinate more Americans.