BOSTON (WBZ) — Nearly 2,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine were compromised at the VA Medical Center in Jamaica Plain after a freezer failed.
Earlier this week, a contractor accidentally unplugged the freezer while cleaning after a pipe burst and flooded the room where the vaccines were stored. As a result, 1,900 doses of the vaccine were compromised.
“For the Moderna vaccine it’s 12 hours. Once it’s been at room temperature for longer than that you no longer can assure that it’s effective and so you can’t give the vaccine,” Dr. Paul Biddinger, the Medical Director for Emergency Preparedness at Mass General Brigham, told WBZ-TV.
Kyle Toto, a spokesperson for the VA Boston Healthcare System, told WBZ the vaccines have not been discarded.
Toto said the freezer was in a secure location and had an alarm system installed. An investigation is underway to determine why the monitoring and alarm system did not work.
“Replenishment doses are in process and we do not foresee disruption of our vaccination effort,” Toto said.
Dr. Biddinger said proper storage is crucial to maintaining the integrity of the key element in the vaccine and it’s overall success against the virus.
“The problem is is that messenger RNA, mRNA, is really fragile. People have kind of made the analogy of an M&M that melts really, really quickly.”
Massachusetts Rep. Stephen Lynch said the doses have been moved to Brockton and West Roxbury while the cleanup operation is still ongoing.
“We simply believe it was an accident,” Lynch told reporters Friday. “Part of the contributing factor was the way these plugs operate. One of them is an offset, so it’s very difficult to pull out. But the one at the top of the freezer was a direct pull so the engineering staff here have corrected that. They’ve created a bracket, they’ve taken pictures of that plug and sent it around to all the other VA hospitals that have this thermo-scientific freezer so that in the event that might happen somewhere else.”
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