Gel packs blamed for COVID-19 vaccines arriving at wrong temperature

Coronavirus Resources

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — The company shipping out Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine says it knows why some doses sent to Michigan may have spoiled by reaching a temperature outside an acceptable range. 

The Ottawa County Health Department received 1,600 of these doses Monday, according to Deputy Health Officer Marcia Mansaray.  

“Our first reaction was, ‘Oh no, we’ve got nothing for this week.’ And we live in our community, we know the people that are waiting so eagerly for vaccine,” Mansaray said.

State health officials say at least 21 shipments containing a total of 11,900 doses were affected.

“Every shipment comes with a temperature monitoring system. Vaccine needs to be maintained in a very small range of temperature in order to be assured that it is effective,” Mansaray explained. 

McKesson Corp., the company responsible for shipping the Moderna vaccine, said in Wednesday statement that the gel packs used to keep the doses at the right temperature during transport were too cold. It said it is implementing new procedures to prevent the problem from happening again.

“McKesson learned on Monday, Jan. 18, that certain deliveries of Moderna vaccines shipped on Sunday, Jan. 17, arrived at the sites of administration colder than the low end of the manufacturer’s stated temperature range. McKesson is replacing these vaccines. We also identified the root cause of the issue – some of the gel packs used to maintain appropriate temperatures during shipping were found to be too cold – and have taken steps to prevent this from occurring in the future. 

“McKesson also proactively reviewed doses that were slated for shipment on Monday, Jan. 18, and determined that a small percentage of those shipments were also impacted by the gel pack issue. McKesson did not ship those doses and is replacing them within the next 24 hours. McKesson worked directly with the CDC to notify each state awardee that was expecting a shipment about the delay. 

“McKesson is honored to play a pivotal role in this initiative of unprecedented scale. In this complex distribution program, our goal is that every shipment be received at the administration sites in a timely manner and within the temperature guidelines established by the manufacturer.” 

McKesson

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive, said the problem was discovered quickly.

“This is not the fault of any provider or the state of Michigan,” she said. “This is something we believe happened at the manufacturer level at the time of shipment. We have received additional replacement doses so it does not impact the amount of vaccines available to the state of Michigan.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has not released a list of all the locations impacted, but officials say the problem has been addressed with replacement doses.

Ottawa County says its health department has received its replacement doses and will be able to conduct the two clinics planned for the week. 

Spectrum Health received a small shipment of the problem vaccine, according to spokesperson Rick Jensen. 

“Three hundred vaccine doses arrived at our Watervliet location and were out of temperature range. They have already been replaced, and we continue to administer vaccines,” he wrote in a statement to News 8. 

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