Michigan's Moderna doses still good after temperature mishap

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News
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Nearly 9,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Michigan thought to have been ruined after getting too cold during transport in mid-January are still viable, state health department officials said Monday. 

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have informed state officials that the 8,900 doses are still good and can be used to vaccinate residents, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said in a press release. 

The development comes as Michigan officials and vaccination providers have complained that the federal government has failed to provide enough doses to meet demand in the state. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration announced Monday it had administered 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Oakland County Health Division RN Margaret McCarthy of Farmington Hills prepares a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Mich. on Jan. 23, 2021. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was administered 1a and 1b groups, which includes health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities and persons aged ≥75 years and non–health care frontline essential workers. (Nic Antaya, Special to The Detroit News)

A monitoring device used to check the temperature during shipment signaled that  8,900 doses had gotten too cold. Initial reports say 11,900 doses might have been damaged, but Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin said only 8,900 doses were actually shipped.  

“We are pleased we will be able to use these vaccines to protect Michiganders from the virus as we work to reach our goal of vaccinating 70% of Michiganders over age 16 as quickly as possible with the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan's chief medical executive, said in the press release. 

“These safeguards are put into place to ensure the integrity of the vaccine and based on the investigation that was conducted, these vaccines can now be used.”

Michigan has received 1,479,975 doses of vaccine as of Monday, according to the state's vaccine website. Hospitals and health departments have said they have the capacity to administer tens of thousands of doses per day — but have been getting far fewer doses per week than they've requested.  

The Whitmer administration said its 1 million administered doses ranked seventh highest in the country but it is still seeking to reach its goal of giving 50,000 shots a day. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses to be effective.

"Michigan is ramping up vaccine distribution and doing everything we can to reach our goal of 50,000 shots in arms per day," Whitmer said in a statement. "Reaching this milestone is good news for our families, front-line workers, and small business owners, but there is more work to do." 

Vaccines are shipped to vaccine providers across the state by the manufacturers and distributors. No vaccine is shipped or distributed by the state health department, health officials said.

McKesson completed an internal investigation and determined the cause of the temperature mishap and exactly how cold the vaccine had become. 

Based on data provided as part of that investigation, Moderna agreed that the vaccine in this shipment was viable upon arrival and will remain viable if kept in the proper temperature range.

kbouffard@detroitnews.com

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