A pharmacist at a Milwaukee hospital has been fired and jailed on suspicion of deliberately ruining hundreds of doses of a coronavirus vaccine.
US authorities have arrested a suburban Milwaukee pharmacist suspected of deliberately ruining hundreds of doses of a coronavirus vaccine by removing them from refrigeration for two nights.
The arrest on Thursday marks another setback in what has been a slower, messier start to vaccinate Americans than public health officials had expected.
Leaders in Wisconsin and other states have been begging the Trump administration for more doses as health care workers and senior citizens line up for the life-saving vaccine.
Police in Grafton, about 32 kilometres (20 miles) north of Milwaukee, said the Advocate Aurora Health pharmacist was arrested on suspicion of reckless endangerment, adulterating a prescription drug and criminal damage to property, all felonies.
The pharmacist has been fired and police said in a news release that he was in jail. Police did not identify the pharmacist, saying he has not yet been formally charged.
His motive remains unclear.
Police said that detectives believe he knew the spoiled doses would be useless and people who received them would mistakenly think they’d been vaccinated when they hadn’t.
Advocate Aurora Health Care Chief Medical Group Officer Jeff Bahr told reporters during a teleconference Thursday afternoon that the pharmacist deliberately removed 57 vials that held hundreds of doses of the Moderna vaccine from refrigeration at a Grafton medical centre overnight on December 24 into December 25, returned them, then left them out again on the night of December 25 into Saturday.
The vials contained enough doses to inoculate 570 people.
A pharmacy technician discovered the vials outside the refrigerator on Saturday morning. Bahr said the pharmacist initially said that he had removed the vials to access other items in the refrigerator and had inadvertently failed to put them back.
The Moderna vaccine is viable for 12 hours outside refrigeration, so workers used the vaccine to inoculate 57 people before discarding the rest. Police said the discarded doses were worth between $8,000 and $11,000.
Bahr said health system officials grew more suspicious of the pharmacist as they reviewed the incident. After multiple interviews, the pharmacist acknowledged Wednesday that he removed the vaccine intentionally over the two nights, Bahr said.
No safety concerns over spoiled shots
That means that the doses people received Saturday are all but useless, he said. Moderna has told Aurora that there’s no safety concerns, but the hospital system is closely monitoring the people who received the spoiled doses, he said.
Bahr declined to comment on the pharmacist’s motive. He said the hospital system’s security protocols are sound.
“This was a situation involving a bad actor,” he said, “as opposed to a bad process.”
Rising number of cases
The number of Covid-19 cases in Wisconsin has been rising in recent days after dipping in early December. The state Department of Health Services reported 3,810 newly confirmed cases on December 31, marking the third straight day of rising daily infections. The state has now seen 481,102 cases.
Covid-19 was a factor in 41 more deaths, pushing the state’s overall death toll to 4,859. The survival rate remained unchanged at 99 percent.
A little more than 47,150 people had been vaccinated in Wisconsin as of Monday morning, according to the latest data from the health agency. The state has been allocated 265,575 doses of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. As of Monday morning, only about 157,000 doses had arrived.
Democratic Governor Tony Evers wrote a letter to President Donald Trump earlier in December asking him to prioritise more doses for Wisconsin due to high case numbers, swamped hospitals and a lack of statewide mitigation mandates.
TABIB discusses side effects of COVID-19 vaccine – MENAFN.COM
(MENAFN – AzerNews) By Trend
Each vaccine has side effects including headache, mild fever, and sometimes weakness. Initially selected inactivated COVID-19 vaccine has fewer side effects, said Chairman of the Board of the Azerbaijani Management Union of Medical Territorial Units (TABIB) Ramin Bayramli in an interview with “Khazar” TV channel, Trend reports.
Bayramli added that the vaccines used in Azerbaijan have been administered to more than one million doctors in Turkey, with no side effects found
“Each vaccine brought to our country is accepted only after laboratory tests, namely, it undergoes a two-week analysis in the laboratories of the pharmaceutical institution of the Turkish Ministry of Health. We have official information about the successful completion of all tests. As agreed, other lots of vaccine will be delivered in the same way”, he said.
According to him, each person is monitored for 30 minutes after vaccination.
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Pfizer vaccine delay expected to cause 60000-dose shortfall in B.C., but only temporarily – CTV News Vancouver
Health officials in British Columbia are expecting a shortfall of about 60,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine over the coming weeks as a result of the company’s previously announced delays.
That’s about half of the doses the province was expecting to receive over that period.
But provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed Monday that B.C. expects increased shipments in March to make up for those missed doses, and that the province is “still on track” to vaccinate its most vulnerable residents before April.
What the delay means for now is that a “higher proportion” of the province’s vaccine will be going to second doses, Henry added.
“We spent quite a lot of time over this past weekend working through how we could make it work, and then stay true to our commitment to getting those second doses into people as soon as logistically possible,” she said.
The provincial health officer also noted that B.C. was expecting potential delays, and was prepared to pivot as necessary.
“The program continues. Our focus continues to be on immunizing all people who are at the greatest risk, and that includes residents and staff who work in long-term care homes around the province,” Henry said.
As of Monday, 87,346 people have received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine across British Columbia. The province received 46,675 doses over the past week, including 28,275 Pfizer doses and 18,400 Moderna doses, but is expecting decreased shipments into February.
Henry described the Pfizer issues as a “slight delay,” but stressed that the province still intends to dramatically expand the scope of its immunization program in April to include new demographics.
In the meantime, she urged residents to do their best to stop the spread of COVID-19 by following the same precautions and rules they have been for months.
“We have the tools and it is in our control,” Henry added. “Let’s show each other that we remain committed to doing our part to protect our seniors and elders who have not yet had the vaccine.”
The coronavirus is becoming more genetically diverse, leaving experts worried – Global News
The race against the virus that causes COVID-19 has taken a new turn: Mutations are rapidly popping up, and the longer it takes to vaccinate people, the more likely it is that a variant that can elude current tests, treatments and vaccines could emerge.
The coronavirus is becoming more genetically diverse, and health officials say the high rate of new cases is the main reason. Each new infection gives the virus a chance to mutate as it makes copies of itself, threatening to undo the progress made so far to control the pandemic.
READ MORE: New coronavirus strains — here’s what you need to know
On Friday, the World Health Organization urged more effort to detect new variants. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a new version first identified in the United Kingdom may become dominant in the U.S. by March. Although it doesn’t cause more severe illness, it will lead to more hospitalizations and deaths just because it spreads much more easily, said the CDC, warning of “a new phase of exponential growth.”
“We’re taking it really very seriously,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“We need to do everything we can now … to get transmission as low as we possibly can,” said Harvard University’s Dr. Michael Mina. “The best way to prevent mutant strains from emerging is to slow transmission.”
So far, vaccines seem to remain effective, but there are signs that some of the new mutations may undermine tests for the virus and reduce the effectiveness of antibody drugs as treatments.
Coronavirus: Travel ban over Brazilian COVID-19 variant precautionary, U.K. transport minister says
“We’re in a race against time” because the virus “may stumble upon a mutation” that makes it more dangerous, said Dr. Pardis Sabeti, an evolutionary biologist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.
Younger people may be less willing to wear masks, shun crowds and take other steps to avoid infection because the current strain doesn’t seem to make them very sick, but “in one mutational change, it might,” she warned. Sabeti documented a change in the Ebola virus during the 2014 outbreak that made it much worse.
Mutations on the rise
It’s normal for viruses to acquire small changes or mutations in their genetic alphabet as they reproduce. Ones that help the virus flourish give it a competitive advantage and thus crowd out other versions.
In March, just a couple of months after the coronavirus was discovered in China, a mutation called D614G emerged that made it more likely to spread. It soon became the dominant version in the world.
Now, after months of relative calm, “we’ve started to see some striking evolution” of the virus, biologist Trevor Bedford of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle wrote on Twitter last week. “The fact that we’ve observed three variants of concern emerge since September suggests that there are likely more to come.”
One was first identified in the United Kingdom and quickly became dominant in parts of England. It has now been reported in at least 30 countries, including the United States.
Soon afterward, South Africa and Brazil reported new variants, and the main mutation in the version identified in Britain turned up on a different version “that’s been circulating in Ohio … at least as far back as September,” said Dr. Dan Jones, a molecular pathologist at Ohio State University who announced that finding last week.
“The important finding here is that this is unlikely to be travel-related” and instead may reflect the virus acquiring similar mutations independently as more infections occur, Jones said.
That also suggests that travel restrictions might be ineffective, Mina said. Because the United States has so many cases, “we can breed our own variants that are just as bad or worse” as those in other countries, he said.
Treatment, vaccine, reinfection risks
Some lab tests suggest the variants identified in South Africa and Brazil may be less susceptible to antibody drugs or convalescent plasma, antibody-rich blood from COVID-19 survivors — both of which help people fight off the virus.
Government scientists are “actively looking” into that possibility, Dr. Janet Woodcock of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told reporters Thursday. The government is encouraging development of multi-antibody treatments rather than single-antibody drugs to have more ways to target the virus in case one proves ineffective, she said.
U.K. goes into national lockdown, as COVID-19 variant continues spread
Current vaccines induce broad enough immune responses that they should remain effective, many scientists say. Enough genetic change eventually may require tweaking the vaccine formula, but “it’s probably going to be on the order of years if we use the vaccine well rather than months,” Dr. Andrew Pavia of the University of Utah said Thursday on a webcast hosted by the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
Health officials also worry that if the virus changes enough, people might get COVID-19 a second time. Reinfection currently is rare, but Brazil already confirmed a case in someone with a new variant who had been sickened with a previous version several months earlier.
What to do
“We’re seeing a lot of variants, viral diversity, because there’s a lot of virus out there,” and reducing new infections is the best way to curb it, said Dr. Adam Lauring, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Loyce Pace, who heads the nonprofit Global Health Council and is a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board, said the same precautions scientists have been advising all along “still work and they still matter.”
“We still want people to be masking up,” she said Thursday on a webcast hosted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“We still need people to limit congregating with people outside their household. We still need people to be washing their hands and really being vigilant about those public health practices, especially as these variants emerge.”
© 2021 The Canadian Press
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