Health officials at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wisconsin, announced Thursday that a now-laid-off employee confessed to deliberately removing 57 vials of the COVID-19 vaccine from a refrigerator and then returning them.
Those doses, which may have been weakened outside of refrigeration, were given to 57 people before the error became apparent, officials said.
Investigators have yet to name the former employee who withdrew the vials, which contained nearly 500 doses (that they were only given to 57 people is a coincidence, officials said. ‘hospital). People who took the affected doses have been notified and there is no indication that they were injured, hospital officials said at a press conference on Thursday.
Aurora Health Care Medical Group is contacting vaccine maker Moderna to determine the effect that lack of refrigeration may have on vaccine activity.
The hospital system in the COVID-ravaged state first revealed that 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine were left out of the refrigerator for more than 12 hours on December 26. At the time, Aurora had described it as the product of “unintentional human error,” indicating that an employee had removed the vaccines to reach something else in the refrigerator.
But on Wednesday night, the hospital changed its story, indicating that another exam indicated “intentional” destruction and the employee was fired. The employee, who hospital officials described as a pharmacist on Thursday, allegedly admitted on Wednesday to intentionally leaving the vials out of the refrigerator.
Moderna vaccine can only survive for up to 12 hours outside refrigeration, although it does not need the same level of cold storage as Pfizer vaccine.
The intentional sabotage claim comes as Wisconsin remains in the throes of a catastrophic COVID-19 outbreak – and after state and federal officials expressed fears that vandals and anti-vaxxers could target doses .
Local police, along with the FBI and the Food and Drug Administration, reportedly assisted in the investigation. The FDA and FBI declined to comment on their involvement.
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