Nearly 1,400 COVID vaccine doses thrown out on Maui due to improperly sealed freezer

Updated: Mar. 24, 2021 at 10:54 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui Health officials say COVID vaccination clinics planned for this week will go on as scheduled despite the loss of 1,386 vaccine doses due to a refrigeration error.

Officials said it was discovered on Monday that a special low-temperature refrigerator storing the Pfizer doses was not properly sealed. Staff immediately contacted Pfizer, state health officials and medical partners, and the doses were thrown out.

“We appreciate Maui Health for taking immediate corrective action, and for being transparent about what happened. We recognize that each vaccine has different storage requirements and setting up large vaccination operations from scratch is a challenge for any health care provider. We know the Maui Health team is dedicated to protecting the people of Maui and are working to vaccinate their community as quickly as possible,” said Hilton Raethel, president and CEO, HAH.

Maui Health said the ultra-low freezer was donated to the hospital from the University of Hawaii Maui campus. The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at very low temperatures. Officials said the doses are kept in the freezer until it needs to be transferred to a refrigerator where it is thawed and prepared for clinic appointments.

Health officials said there is enough supply on Maui to vaccinate those with an appointment.

“We want to assure our community that there is no disruption of our vaccination efforts and, in fact, we are working on expanding those efforts that includes increasing clinic hours and hosting pop-ups throughout the island,” said Mike Rembis, Maui Health CEO.

Officials also said the refrigerator is being repaired, but future doses will be stored in an alternative location.

The Department of Health confirmed this is not the first time doses have been thrown out in the state since vaccination efforts began.

A spokesperson said a total of 2,400 doses have been lost in separate incidents around the state since mid-December.

Officials said those loses were mostly because a vial or syringe broke. Other doses thrown out were not administered after a vial had been opened, or either vaccine had been drawn into a syringe, but not administered, the DOH said.

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