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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

What's The Deal With Those 860 Doses Of COVID Vaccine At Springfield Hospital?

A photo of a medical worker holding a vial of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine.
Ted Shaffrey
Associated Press File
About 860 doses of the Moderna COVID vaccine thought to be unusable have been deemed safe by the manufacturer and state health officials.

Some 860 doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine feared spoiled at Springfield Hospital have been deemed safe to use. So what happened?The Moderna vaccine has to be stored between 2 degrees and 8 degrees Celsius. Springfield Hospital notified state officials Tuesday that about 860 doses may have reached a temperature slightly above that range, and Moderna's own guidelines suggested the doses would need to be discarded.

VPR's Mitch Wertlieb spoke with Lester "Pete" Peck, director of pharmacy services at Springfield Hospital, to understand what happened. Their conversation has been edited for clarity.

Mitch Wertlieb: I understand you've gotten some good news from Moderna about the 860 doses or so in question. They can be used after all, is that right?

Lester "Pete" Peck: Yes. We received word last night that, after further review by Moderna, they were willing to move forward and certify them not only as safe, [but also] as effective, so we can bring them back into use for the public.

What happened to make them potentially unstable in the first place?

Well, we had a two temperature monitoring system in place here at Springfield Hospital. And then, in conjunction with the state, instituted their own third-party temperature monitoring system. On Tuesday afternoon, there was a slight discrepancy between the two systems. Our showed that everything had stayed within the range, but since the state showed a temperature of 9.1 [degrees Celsius], or just outside the maximum allowable temperature, we followed the protocol set in place by the state, alerted them, and they put us in a holding pattern for the following day, on Wednesday's clinic.

They then contacted Moderna to further clarify the issue. And, as you stated earlier, we've been able to now put those vaccines back in play.

Were they saying they were very confident that these particular doses could be used? Or was it sort of a, "we think they're OK" kind of statement?

No, I think today, where safety and public welfare is our first responsibility, this is a real success story for not only Springfield Hospital and its reporting, but also the state of Vermont and its collaborative working with Springfield Hospital.

By reaching out to Moderna, the manufacturer, we've been able to clearly establish that these vaccines are safe for public use. And they should have full confidence that moving forward, that every stone has been unturned to make sure that's the case.

More from VPR: Reporter Debrief: 'A Big Day' As Vt.'s First Public Vaccine Clinics Open Wednesday

So this was a situation where there was one degree off here. What steps are being taken to make sure something like this doesn't happen again? Because next time, potentially, could be more than one degree Celsius, as far as a difference.

This monitoring system was put in place back in early December, and up until Tuesday, there had been no excursions from the temperature range. But having said that, there's been an internal review, and the state has also come in to offer their input. And so several practices have been put in place, not to correct anything that was wrong, but to just give us added confidence that, going forward, this won't happen again.

Because obviously these vaccines are important to get as many out, to as many people as we can, in the coming weeks.

Will this affect any scheduled vaccinations for those coming weeks?

No. The exciting thing is, we did have to inconvenience some of our patients on Wednesday, and certainly beg their understanding to make sure that this was the right thing for them. But going forward, we're on track for [Friday]. All our clinics for the next week, in the coming weeks are on track. And we're excited to continue our community service to the Springfield area.

I understand you're picking up another shipment of vaccine, is that right?

Yeah, so working collaboratively with the state, who's been tremendously supportive through this whole process, we were able to partner with Gifford Health Center up in Randolph, Vermont. Yesterday, I went up and picked up an additional vaccine [shipment], to make sure that in case the announcement [about the 860 doses] didn't come through in a timely manner, that today's clinics could move forward.

So there'll be no lapse in service going forward.

How did it feel to you personally to hear that these 860 doses were going to be OK? Because, as you just said, this is so important for the state, really for the whole country. But to know and have that confidence, those doses are all right, you can use them, you can get them into arms, how does that feel?

It's a relief for sure. When you get put in that situation, when you have to make a call and follow a protocol, that's in place for a reason. Operation Warp Speed has been well thought-out at the federal level, for most intents and purposes, and then trickled down to the state. Its application within the state has been very collaborative, as I mentioned. And for us to be able to work with them, and get that positive result, and that additional confirmation that things are going to be OK going forward, it's kind of a shot in the arm to everyone here. To know that we followed protocol, Springfield Hospital stood up and did what was right for its community, and the safety and well-being of patients in the state. And now we can continue to do that.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or tweet Morning Edition host Mitch Wertlieb @mwertlieb.

We've closed our comments. Read about ways to get in touch here.

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
Matt Smith worked for Vermont Public from 2017 to 2023 as managing editor and senior producer of Vermont Edition.
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