Texas Moderna shipments delayed because of temperature problems

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Issues with keeping Moderna vaccines in the proper temperature range led to delayed shipments in Texas last week, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Lara Anton, a spokeswoman for DSHS, said five Moderna vaccine shipments had what is called a “temperature excursion” and had to be set aside. A “temperature excursion” occurs when a vaccine has been outside the temperature range recommended for transport or storage.

That represented 4,300 doses, Anton said. She added the federal government has since replaced them.

Moderna’s vaccine must be stored at regular freezer temperatures of 5 degrees to -13 degrees Fahrenheit, unlike the Pfizer vaccine which must be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Centers for Disease Control has outlined guidance for providers to follow when shipments arrive, including inspecting them for damage and checking a TagAlert Temperature Monitor placed inside the box. Anton said providers who received the shipments that had not remained cold enough “were directed to separate the questionable vaccine into a vaccine quarantine bag and store them in the freezer until viability has been determined by Moderna.”

Anton said DSHS found out Dec. 23 that 421 shipments (or 144,400 doses of the vaccine) were delayed, but said they weren’t given a reason why. Carrie Kroll, vice president of advocacy, quality and public health at the Texas Hospital Association in Austin told Bloomberg U.S. officials held back other shipments because they were worried their temperature sensors weren’t working correctly.

On Monday, providers received 399 shipments and received 22 on Tuesday, DSHS said.

McKesson Corp., which manages the logistics of shipping the Moderna vaccine, told KXAN “We are aware of a handful of reported temperature excursions involving Moderna’s vaccine. For excursions reported to McKesson, providers were instructed to quarantine product at the administration sites, and McKesson followed CDC direction regarding replacement orders.” KXAN reached out to the CDC for more information and will update this story when it responds.

Issues with vaccine data

Separately, Kroll said the delay in shipments isn’t reflected in the state’s data.

“With regard to (vaccination) data, we have no certainty it is accurate at this point in time,” said Carrie Williams, the chief communications officer for the Texas Hospital Association.

She said the number of doses that have been given out is higher than what the state’s data shows, partially because there are issues with the ImmTrac2 system hospitals use to report how many people have been vaccinated. Data issues, she said, have to be handled individually.

DSHS explained to KXAN that providers have 24 hours to enter the doses they administered into ImmTrac2. It said it’s aware providers have had some issues. For example, the system wouldn’t accept files that have an improperly formatted date.

“We are hosting a webinar for providers to review common errors that may prevent their data from being uploaded,” a DSHS spokesperson said.

Williams said DSHS has been “working hard on these issues,” and that now the Texas Division of Emergency Management is working on a new system “with the goal of getting more real time data from hospitals.”

TDEM spokesman Seth Christensen said the system is set to go live Wednesday and “captures real-time vaccine and therapeutics daily dose usage data from healthcare providers across the state.” However, he said the system isn’t meant to be a replacement for other health reporting systems. Instead, it’s meant to provide nearly real-time updates to inform the public about where the vaccine is available. They may also use it to help make future decisions about where to send the vaccine.

“As you know, there has been very little confusion about the number of doses of any given vaccine that have been distributed across the state, however, we have seen varying reports of the actual number of vaccines administered,” Christensen said. “This simplified, numbers only, reporting system will help with that and will provide an added benefit to the public – transparency. That said, the data derived is only as good as the data inputted, so we have simplified this report in such a way that public health professionals across the state should be easily able to report their real time numbers for vaccine and therapeutics administration with no delay.”

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