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A healthcare company says 57 vials of Moderna coronavirus vaccine were ruined and had to be discarded after a hospital employee intentionally removed the vials from a refrigerator, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The FBI and FDA are investigating the incident at Aurora Hospital in Grafton, a Milwaukee suburb, the Grafton police said in a statement. Police said hospital security notified them Wednesday about “employee tampering with vials of COVID-19 vaccine.”
The healthcare company, Advocate Aurora Health, “was led to believe” the vials — each containing 10 doses — were removed from the refrigerator in error, but on Wednesday the employee “acknowledged that they intentionally removed the vaccine from refrigeration,” the company said in a statement, according to the Journal Sentinel said.
The employee is no longer employed with the company.
“We continue to believe that vaccination is our way out of the pandemic. We are more than disappointed that this individual’s action will result in a delay of more than 500 people receiving their vaccine,” the Advocate Aurora Health statement said.
Moderna has said its vaccine can be kept at room temperature for up to 12 hours before it has to be thrown out. Hospital workers were able to use a few doses of the vaccine because the vials were found inside the 12-hour period, but most had to be discarded, Advocate Aurora Health said, according to the Journal Sentinel.
Temperature controls for the Moderna vaccine are not as challenging as for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which requires shipment and storage at “deep freeze” conditions of –70° C or –80° C.
The Moderna vaccine can be shipped and stored for up to six months at -20° Celsius (about -4° Fahrenheit), a temperature equal to most home or medical freezers, according to Moderna. After thawing, the vaccine will remain stable at standard refrigerator temperatures of 2° to 8° C (36° to 46° F) for up to 30 days within the six-month shelf life, Moderna said.
Once thawed, the vaccine cannot be refrozen.