Nearly 600 doses of COVID vaccine have been wasted due to error, LMH Health says

photo by: Ashley Golledge

A sign points to LMH Health's drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination center on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020.

Nearly 600 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine were wasted due to a faulty transfer of the doses between Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health and LMH Health, according to a news release Thursday evening from the hospital.

The error resulted in LMH refreezing doses that had already been thawed, rendering them unusable.

The health department received 570 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on March 3 in a refrigerated state and transferred them to LMH Health at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday, March 10, the release said.

Because vaccines are typically delivered to LMH Health while still frozen, the standard process is to place them into a freezer at the hospital until they are ready for distribution.

LMH Health said that it followed this procedure upon receipt of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines, not realizing they were already thawed.

“When we discovered the vaccines had been delivered to the hospital in a refrigerated state, LMH Health immediately reached out to Johnson & Johnson for guidance,” said Brian Bradfield, LMH Health associate vice president of ancillary services, in Thursday’s release. “The company advised these doses will have to be discarded. At Johnson & Johnson’s request, we have contacted McKesson, who is overseeing distribution. McKesson referred us (to) our state and local health department to coordinate replacement doses.”

It wasn’t clear when LMH discovered the error.

LMH Health President and CEO Russ Johnson said that while processes were in place to prevent vaccine waste, the hospital failed in this case.

“Although this is a small percentage of the overall vaccines that the county has received, we know it is not insignificant — this is a heart wrenching situation for our hospital, our Phase 2 community members and our Unified Command partners,” Johnson said.

The county received 900 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine in the past week, meaning 63.3% of the county’s supply has been wasted because of the error. The county has not administered any doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine thus far, according to vaccine distribution numbers.

Dan Partridge, director of the county health department, said LMH Health has been a vital partner in the countywide vaccination effort led by Unified Command.

“We had a single process that deviated from the norm,” Partridge said in the release. “This is a good reminder for all Unified Command partners to check and double check their doses during transfer. We will follow that process going forward, as we navigate this bump in the road.”

LMH Health and the health department are working to reschedule vaccine appointments, the release said, likely at the joint clinic planned at the fairgrounds on Wednesday.


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