Carroll loses thousands of vaccine doses

Malfunctioning refrigerator destroys flu medicine, canceling planned clinics

Baltimore & Region


A malfunctioning refrigerator has caused the loss of about $25,000 in vaccines for the Carroll County Health Department, officials said yesterday.

Because the vaccines had to be destroyed, officials cannot schedule any more flu clinics this season and have postponed other inoculation clinics until supplies are replenished.

The nursing staff, who check the refrigerator's recorded temperature and corresponding time twice daily, discovered the thermometer had dropped to extremely low temperatures Monday. Many of the vaccines had crystallized or become cloudy.

"We had to destroy the vaccines because they had lost efficacy," said Debbie Middleton, the health department's director of communicable diseases. "You have to keep the vaccines at a specific temperature. We lost thousands of vaccines."

The standard for storing vaccine is between 35 and 46 degrees. At 6 a.m. Monday, the eight-year-old refrigerator registered 20 degrees and had fallen to 11 degrees by the time the nursing staff arrived at 8 a.m.

"The temperature cannot go up or down from the standard without destroying efficacy of vaccines," Middleton said.

The department relies on two smaller back-up refrigerators for storing vaccines that are needed in the maternal and child clinics. It also has requested a new larger refrigeration unit, estimated to cost several thousand dollars.

"We have reordered limited amounts of the most commonly needed vaccines, until we get a new refrigerator," Middleton said. "Some are on back order, however, until mid-December."

But the manufacturer has no additional flu vaccine and all the county's remaining supply was destroyed by the freezing temperatures, Middleton said.

"Fortunately, we finished the mass inoculation clinics and had vaccinated nearly 6,500 people," she said.

The department also canceled its adult immunization clinic, scheduled for Thursday, for people traveling overseas.

Information: 410-876-3003.

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