News, Culture & Society

Nearly 25,000 people need to be re-vaccinated after clinics stored shots wrong

Refrigerator malfunctions and potential contamination have left shots for the flu, HPV and polio ineffective, meaning thousands have been sent letters asking to return to be revaccinated. 

Vaccines have become a hot button issue over the last several weeks.

Measles outbreaks in anti-vaccination ‘hot spots’ have sprouted up across the US, affecting 10 states.

Health officials in one of the states most affected, Washington, say demand for the measles vaccine has soared by 500 percent compared to last year.

However, as people have rushed to inoculate themselves against all diseases, health officials say they may have received compromised vaccines that weren’t stored properly.

Issues at clinics in California, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio have affected nearly 25,000 patients, reported Kaiser Health News.  

It’s raised concerns about vaccine oversight – or lack thereof – at many medical offices.

Nearly 25,000 patients in California, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio received vaccines that were not properly stored. Pictured: Refrigerated vaccines stored at Kaiser Permanente East Medical offices in Denver, February 2015

In October 2017, health officials in Ventura County in California were worried that vaccines were getting to room temperature by the time they reached clinics, reported the Ventura County Star.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that shots be stored between 35F and 46F in a refrigerator and between -58F and 5F in a freez 

The Ventura Health Care Agency decided to fix the problem by transporting the vaccines on ice packs.

However, during a standard November audit, the officials discovered that the ice packs had frozen some of the vaccines, potentially lowering their efficacy, Kaise Health News reported.

According to the Los Angeles Times, about 25 types of vaccines may have been affected. This includes the flu shot and the human papillomavirus vaccines.

The Ventura Health Care Agency offered to re-vaccinate anyone who had received one of the affected shots: about 23,000 patients.  

And California is far from the only state where vaccine storage has been a problem.  

In May 2018, a refrigerator containing vaccines malfunctioned at the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic.  

Vaccines for HPV, polio and meningococcal disease were left colder that recommended because of the malfunction, reported The Oklahoman.

The newspaper added that 120 children and teenagers may have received ineffective immunizations and would need to return and do their shots over again. 

Additionally, clinics operated by Community Health Network in Indianapolis, Indiana, administered vaccines and tuberculosis skin tests that were not effective.

According to RTV6, the agency sent letters to 1,600 patients in January 2018 about freezer and refrigerator malfunctions.

Just this month, the Kentucky Department of Health said potentially contaminated vaccinations had been given in out in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio since September 2018.

A news release stated that several people developed infections marked by ‘redness, pain or tenderness, swelling, and the development of hard lumps, or nodules, at the injection site’.

Officials believed it was the result of vaccines that were improperly stored and handled. 

Some programs have federal oversight, such as the Vaccine for Children’s Program, a federally-funded program that provides vaccines to children from low-income households at no cost, but many don’t, reported Kaiser Health News. 

One 2015 study from the CDC showed that nearly one-quarter of vaccine errors that were reported involved vaccines that were not properly stored or expired.

Another 2012 report from Department of Health and Human Services found that almost 34 of 45 health care providers sampled in a two-week period had vaccines stored at improper temperatures for ‘at least five cumulative hours’.

Some programs have federal oversight, such as the Vaccine for Children’s Program, a federally-funded program that provides vaccines to children from low-income households at no cost, but many don’t, reported Kaiser Health News.  

The news comes as a measles outbreak sweeps the US, particularly hitting New York and Washington the hardest.

So far, 53 cases have been confirmed in Clark County – 47 in unvaccinated children. However, health officials have seen quite a spike in the number of vaccines being given.

Kaiser Health News reported that orders for measles vaccines increased by 500 percent in Clark County in January compared to the same time last year.

In 2018, 530 doses were ordered compared to 3,150 this year.