Ohio pharmacy suspended after 890 vaccine doses wasted

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) A pharmacy responsible for distributing the coronavirus vaccine to Ohio nursing homes failed to document storage temperatures for leftover shots, resulting in 890 doses being wasted, the state Health Department said Wednesday.

The agency said it suspended SpecialtyRx in Columbus from the distribution system and ordered it not to administer any of the wasted doses. The pharmacy was not part of the federal distribution program that includes national chains like Walgreens and CVS.

SpecialtyRx received an initial 1,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine late last year for distribution to eight nursing homes and had 890 leftover, the Health Department said.

The company, due to receive a shipment of second-shot doses, was exploring a transfer of the 890 leftover shots to another provider but failed to properly record the minimum and maximum refrigerator and freezer temperatures for the doses each day, the state said.

The doses are considered wasted because the monitoring wasn’t done properly, said Melanie Amato, a Health Department spokesperson. The nursing homes that received the initial doses must work with other providers — likely local health departments — for the second shots.

An official with New Jersey-based SpecialtyRx said Wednesday she wasn’t aware of the problem but promised a company response.

Vaccination supplies are a growing issue as states struggle with supplies more limited than initially promised. On Monday, Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine pleaded with the incoming administration of Democratic President Joe Biden for more vaccine doses.

“We are not lacking the infrastructure,” DeWine said in the Jan. 18 letter. “We are lacking the vaccine.”

More than 450,000 Ohioans — or about 4% of the state’s population — have received at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines since mid-December.

DeWine said the state is prepared to move to mass vaccine and mobile distribution sites and has already identified more than 100 places where that could happen.

“We would welcome the federal government coming in and setting up mass sites, but only if it means that more vaccine is coming into Ohio,” the governor said.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 7,490 new cases per day on Jan. 5 to 6,160 new cases per day on Jan. 19, according to an Associated Press analysis of data provided by The COVID Tracking Project.

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