MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Tennessee Department of Health found more than seven instances of COVID-19 vaccine waste in Shelby County, amounting to more than 2,400 wasted doses.
An investigation into how the Shelby County Health Department has handled its inventory of the vaccine was launched following the announcement that more than 1,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses expired in Shelby County on Friday.
TDH said the Shelby County Health Department lacks standard operating procedures for the storage and handling of the vaccine, including insufficient record keeping and no formal process for managing doses that will expire soon. The local health department had more than 51,000 doses of the vaccine in its inventory, which TDH said was an excess of 30,000 doses. As part of Tennessee's vaccination distribution plan, health departments are asked to administer the vaccine within seven to ten days of receiving doses.
In response to the findings, TDH has sent personnel to Shelby County for technical assistance and to monitor its pharmacy operations, as well as, requesting on-site assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Trust, honesty and transparency are key to collaborative partnerships. The preliminary findings of this investigation have led to swift and definitive actions to identify problems and implement improvements the community needs and deserves," said Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey. "It’s important that we get this right for the people of Shelby County and for the state as a whole as we work to ensure equitable and efficient distribution of this life-saving vaccine to Tennesseans in all communities, especially those most vulnerable and underserved."
Shelby County will continue to receive its full allocation of vaccine doses, which is determined by population. Management of the current inventory will be transferred from the local health department to hospital partners. Future allocations of the vaccine will be sent to the City of Memphis, hospitals, pharmacies and clinics in the Shelby County area.
TDH said going forward, the department will assist the Shelby County Health Department in improving the efficiency at its COVID-19 vaccination sites.