Hospital Employee Fired for Deliberately Removing COVID Vaccine Vials From Refrigerator

A Wisconsin hospital employee has been fired after deliberately removing more than 50 vials of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine from a refrigerator, causing around 500 doses to be thrown away.

The Aurora Medical Center in Grafton said 57 vials of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine had been removed from a pharmacy refrigerator and left out.

On Monday, Advocate Aurora Health officials said in a statement that an employee had removed the vials from a refrigerator to access other items and failed to put them back overnight on Friday. An internal investigation led officials to believe the failure was due to an "unintended human error."

But on Wednesday, officials said the employee in question had admitted to intentionally removing the vials from the refrigerator.

Boxes containing the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Mississippi, on December 20, 2020. Paul Sancya/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

"We immediately launched an internal review and were led to believe this was caused by inadvertent human error. The individual in question today acknowledged that they intentionally removed the vaccine from refrigeration," Advocate Aurora Health said in a statement.

The statement said that the vials that had been removed from the refrigerator caused 500 doses of the vaccine to be discarded. The Moderna vaccine can still be administered if it has been kept at room temperature for up to 12 hours. Once it is thawed, however, it cannot be refrozen.

"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," officials added in the statement.

Advocate Aurora Health added that the "appropriate authorities" had been notified for any investigation into the incident.

Grafton police said Aurora Corporate Security had reported an employee tampering with vials of the coronavirus vaccine on Wednesday evening.

Advocate Aurora Health and Grafton police have been contacted for additional comment.

More than 47,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered in Wisconsin as of Tuesday, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. More than 40,000 people had received doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, while around 6,000 people had received the vaccine developed by Moderna.

Wisconsin has reported more than 516,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and at least 5,195 deaths.