Counties, Cities Question Discarded Ampoules of Covid-19 Vaccine

Officials Struggle to get more Vaccine supplies Nationwide

By Terry Miller

According to several news reports, originally posted on TMZ.com last week, L.A. County Dept. of Public Health is allegedly allowing some clinics to throw unused vaccines in the trash “rather than inoculate thousands of residents who are desperate to get the shot.” According to some, this has enraged at least one county leader who is on a mission to reverse this policy. L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn allegedly reacted the situation where a clinic administering the vaccine to health care workers ended the day with 150 unused vials of the COVID vaccine that were about to spoil … because a huge number of people who signed up were no shows,”

“The clinic — the Men’s Health Foundation in Inglewood — contacted people who were not on the priority list but desperately wanted the vaccine, and these folks got the remaining doses. Incredibly, that runs afoul of the County Health Dept’s guidelines, which say ONLY people on the priority list should be vaccinated, EVEN IF THE VACCINES WOULD OTHERWISE END UP IN THE TRASH,” according to TMZ.

There have also been some reports of a pharmacist allegedly deliberately rendering some of the vaccines useless by keeping them out of cold storage for too long. A Milwaukee pharmacist was arrested last Thursday and accused of “tampering with and causing the destruction” of more than 550 doses of the Moderna vaccine against the coronavirus last week, Grafton, Wis., police confirmed, according to a report on NPR.

Officials said that in a written statement to Aurora Health public safety officials, the pharmacist responsible admitted “to intentionally removing the vaccine knowing that if not properly stored the vaccine would be ineffective.”

The Moderna vials must be stored between 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit. They can remain effective for up to 12 hours if left at room temperature. Beyond that, the drug is rendered useless. The value of the spoiled doses is estimated to be between $8,000 and $11,000.

Beacon Media contacted the county for a statement regarding the alleged ampoules waste.

“The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health does not condone wasting of any precious vaccine doses and has not and is not directing providers to throw away unused doses. In fact, we have moved swiftly to set up vaccine clinics on quick turnaround whenever we have learned of potential vaccine expirations.

Although the priority now is to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers and residents in long-term health facilities, Los Angeles County has allowed for exceptions in the vaccination plan to be made in order to prevent any vaccine wastage, as is detailed on page 8 of the department’s guidance.

The Department of Public Health will investigate any reports of vaccine waste or misuse. Anyone with information about waste or misuse should email covidvax@ph.lacounty.gov.

Los Angeles County is committed to vaccinating every resident who wants to be protected from this deadly virus and is working with hundreds of partners to ramp up operations for mass vaccination distribution to eligible groups of residents.

For up-to-date information, visit VaccinateLACounty.com

Last week L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn, whose Fourth District includes several beach cities, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that she was frustrated about the lack of a comprehensive vaccine rollout plan — which she asked the county public health department to create in September — and overall, that more doses aren’t going to residents who need them.

“We’ve still given out less than half of our vaccines that have been allocated to us, and that is unacceptable to me,” Hahn said.

As an aside to the distribution of the vaccine, businesses are still hurting, especially restaurants. There’s no way to sugarcoat the impact of the pandemic virus on the restaurant industry.

In a Dec. 7 report, the National Restaurant Association said the industry was in “free fall,” with more than 110,000 restaurants closing since the start of Covid-19. Food-service revenue plunged an estimated $240 billion by the end of the year and restaurant staffing jobs fell 2 million below pre-pandemic levels, the NRA said, according to a report in Bloomberg News.

One Monrovia restaurant owner, who requested anonymity, said the county health director, Barbara Ferrer is not qualified to be in charge of the dept. pointing out that she is not an M.D. and not trained in virology, “ I believe Ferrer’s PhD doesn’t warrant the decision making that has so deeply affected our businesses…,” the restauranter told Beacon Media.

“She’s a social worker, how can she be put in such a position of power without medical knowlege?” the restauranteur said.

Monrovia City Manager, Dylan Feik pointed out some interesting facts: “The County’s revised Health Order (dated 12/30/20) addresses outdoor seating (item 8.N). It states “Outdoor seating is closed to the public.” I believe this may have been issued in response to the approach Pasadena is using where restaurants do not serve customers at the outdoor seating areas but nothing prohibited patrons from grabbing meals to go and then simply eating meals outdoors.

We used the same approach for the months of Nov./Dec. and did not require merchants to move tables/chairs. Now, they can get cited by the County for allowing outdoor seating.

As for business support, I wish there was more we could do. We continue to lobby for State and Federal Aid and use city staff to help promote and market Old Town. Many folks have asked about local financial support and Monrovia is simply too small to do anything meaningful. I think the key message is to “shop local, even if it’s takeout or delivery.”

In addition, Dylan Feik told Monrovia Weekly Monday that the city will “keep focused on setting up sites/clinics for vaccine distribution…hopefully that’s not too far out.”

The Mayor of Pasadena, Victor Gordo has requested the state look into the possibility of utilizing the Rose Bowl for a major vaccine distribution center which could really help all our communities.

It has been a long-held belief that restaurants have been unfairly targeted during the pandemic. Numerous lawsuits are pending questioning the figures/statistics in an effort to at least allow outdoor dining again.  Scientists and other professionals point out restaurants pose less of a threat of coronavirus transmission than supermarkets or other stores where large groups of people are under one roof.

Supervisor Barger told Beacon Media Monday that “efficient and effective distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to our residents and communities is the most critical hurdle in our ability to recover from this virus,” said Supervisor Barger. “While we continue to prioritize the vaccination of healthcare workers who have been on the frontlines caring for our vulnerable residents, we must add flexibility to this process and begin efforts to vaccinate those 65 and older.”

While no evidence has been forthcoming, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said last week that she has not heard of any cases of COVID-19 vaccine doses being thrown away at this point, but said she and her colleagues want to make sure it does not happen.

“It would be criminal if we found any doses that were thrown in a garbage bin behind one of these clinics,” she told CBC news last week.

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