Tennessee School District Destroys 1,000 Vaccine Doses for Employees due to Storage Error

The Rutherford County School District of Tennessee has had to dispose of 1,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine due to a refrigeration storage error.

The Tennessee Department of Health had supplied doses to the district, and the district planned to administer them to employees at a Saturday clinic. But the district's health services department unknowingly stored the doses in a non-approved storage freezer inside the clinic, The Tennessean reports.

When the school's health service workers tried to test the freezer's temperature using a digital data logger tool given to them by the state health department, the tool registered an error code. After contacting state health officials, the officials told the district that they had used a non-approved freezer. As a result, there was no way to ensure that the doses had been consistently stored at the necessary temperature.

Consequently, the district had to discard all 1,000 doses of the vaccine. However, the local health department gave the district 320 vaccines for the employees who had already signed up for the Saturday clinic. The local department will also oversee the administration of the required second doses for all those employees.

"We deeply regret this error and have worked throughout the day with the state and local Health Department to better understand the issue and to ensure this type of mistake is not repeated," Bill Spurlock, the district's director of schools, said in a statement.

Tennessee school COVID-19 vaccine vaccination doses error
The Rutherford County School District of Tennessee has had to dispose of 1,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine due to a refrigeration storage error. In this December 15, 2020 photo, vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are seen at a vaccination clinic. Leon Neal/Getty

The Moderna vaccine can stay stable for up to six months as long as it's stored at a stable temperature of minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit). After it's removed from cold storage, it can be stored for up to 30 days in a refrigerator at a temperature between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius (35.6 to 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

The doses can also be kept at room temperature for up to 12 hours, but after the doses are thawed, they cannot be refrozen.

As of February 26, Rutherford County ranks fifth amongst Tennessee's 95 counties among those with the highest overall number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

As of the same date, Tennessee ranks 12th among U.S. states with the highest overall number of COVID-19 cases. It has had over 759,000 cases and 11,284 related deaths.

However, the state has experienced a steady decline of new infections since January 8, when the state reported 7,219 new infections, its highest daily toll ever in 2021. As of February 25, the state's seven-day average for new cases is 1,328.

Newsweek contacted the Tennessee Department of Health for comment.

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