(Reuters) – A Wisconsin hospital pharmacist was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of sabotaging more than 500 doses of coronavirus vaccine by deliberately removing them from refrigeration to spoil, police and medical authorities said.
The pharmacist, an employee of Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wisconsin, at the time that 57 vials of vaccine were found left out of cold storage earlier this week, has since been fired but has not been publicly identified, officials said.
Each vial contains 10 doses. Nearly 60 of the doses in question were administered before hospital officials determined the medication had been left unrefrigerated long enough to render the vaccine ineffective. The remaining 500-plus doses were then discarded.
Moderna Inc, maker of the vaccine, has assured the hospital that receiving an injection of any of the doses removed from refrigeration poses no safety issue, other than leaving the recipient unprotected from COVID infection, said Dr. Jeff Bahr, Aurora Health Care Medical Group president.
Neither Aurora Health nor law enforcement offered any possible motive for the sabotage.
Those who received the ineffective doses have been notified and will need to be re-vaccinated. The episode means that immunization will be delayed for 570 people who should by now have received their first shot of the two-dose vaccine.
Speaking to an online press briefing on Thursday, Bahr said there was no evidence the pharmacist tampered with the vaccines in any way besides removing them from refrigeration, or that any other doses were disturbed.
Grafton police said in a statement that the pharmacist “knew the spoiled vaccinations would be useless and that people who received the vaccinations would think they had been vaccinated against the virus when in fact they were not.”
The incident comes amid public opinion surveys showing widespread skepticism about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines, which were granted emergency-use authorization by federal regulators just 11 months after the virus emerged in the United States.
Reluctance to take the vaccine has even been expressed by some healthcare workers who are among those designated as first in line to receive them.
When initially questioned after the misplaced vials were discovered on Dec. 26, the pharmacist said it was an inadvertent error, but during further review of the matter admitted on Wednesday to intentionally removing the vaccine from refrigeration, hospital officials said.
The individual, a resident of Grafton in the Milwaukee suburbs, was arrested on Thursday and booked into the Ozaukee County jail on felony charges of recklessly endangering safety, adulterating a prescription drug and criminal damage to property, police said.
Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Rebecca Spalding in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis
Quebec reports 2,225 new COVID-19 cases, 67 deaths as hospitalizations decline – The Record (New Westminster)
MONTREAL — Quebec is reporting 2,225 new COVID-19 cases and 67 further deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.
The number of hospitalizations dropped for a second day, this time by 22 for a total of 1,474 patients, with four fewer patients in intensive care for a total of 227.
Health Minister Christian Dube tweeted that all Quebecers need to continue to follow public health rules to ensure cases and hospitalizations go down.
The province’s Health Department reported 2,430 more recoveries, for a total of 210,364.
Quebec currently has 21,640 active cases.
The province has now reported 240,970 confirmed infections and 9,005 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021.
The Canadian Press
2 COVID-19 deaths in Manitoba as province announces 180 more cases – CBC.ca
There are 180 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba on Saturday and two more people have died from the illness, the province says in a news release.
The latest deaths are two men: one in his 70s from the Southern Health region and one in his 80s from the Winnipeg health region, the release says.
Just under half the new cases on Saturday — 83 — are in the Winnipeg health region, the release says. There are also 69 new cases in the Northern Health Region, which has seen a sharp uptick in cases this week due to outbreaks in several communities, health officials have said.
A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at the Lynn Lake Hospital, the release says, while an outbreak previously declared in Winnipeg’s Seven Oaks General Hospital’s 4U4-7 unit is now over.
Lynn Lake, a small northwestern Manitoba town of fewer than 500 people, was already dealing with an outbreak of its own. As of Wednesday, the community had 121 known active cases of the illness.
The health district that includes Lynn Lake now has a total of 145 active cases, according to the province’s data portal.
The remaining new cases are spread out between the Southern and Interlake-Eastern health regions (with 10 each) and the Prairie Mountain Health region (with eight).
The update comes one day after the provincial government asked people for their input on the possibility of lifting some pandemic restrictions next week.
Manitoba’s current public health orders banning most gatherings and the sale of non-essential goods are set to expire on Friday.
Because of a data error, one previously reported death has been removed from Manitoba’s totals, the release says. That brings the province’s COVID-19 death toll to 761.
Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate increased slightly to 10.2 per cent, up from 10 on Friday. In Winnipeg, that rate dropped from 7.2 per cent on Friday to seven per cent.
There are now 283 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Manitoba — down by one from Friday — including 36 who are in intensive care, one more than Friday.
The province reminded people to check restrictions in other regions before they go anywhere if they have to travel. In Ontario, new public health rules say people can only go to another residence or cottage in the province for less than 24 hours to do essential business, the release says. If they stay any longer, they may have to stay and self-isolate for 14 days.
There have now been 27,322 COVID-19 cases identified in Manitoba. To date, 23,575 are considered recovered, while another 2,986 are still listed as active — though health officials have recently said that number is inflated by a data entry backlog, and there are likely only about half as many active cases.
There were 2,043 COVID-19 tests done in Manitoba on Friday, which brings the total number completed in the province to 450,104.
Canada says first COVID-19 vaccine for refugees in Jordan offers glimmer of hope – Powell River Peak
OTTAWA — Canada’s international development minister says the world’s first inoculation of a refugee against COVID-19 this week is an important milestone in ending the pandemic everywhere.
Karina Gould told The Canadian Press in a statement that it was encouraging to see the rollout of new vaccinations because “it brings an early glimmer of hope to the most vulnerable people right across the globe as we fight this terrible pandemic.”
A woman living in the northern Jordanian city of Irbid who had fled northern Iraq became the first United Nations registered refugee to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday.
Before the pandemic, Canada committed $2.1 billion in security, humanitarian and development funds to help Jordan and neighbouring Lebanon cope with the massive influx of refugees they face due to the crises in Syria and Iraq.
Since the pandemic began, Canada has committed more than $865 million to the ACT-Accelerator, a global effort to ensure low- and middle-income countries have equitable access to medical treatments during the pandemic. It has also committed $220 million to its partner initiative, the COVAX Facility, to help buy vaccine doses for low- and middle-income countries.
“While we’re fighting for the health of our own citizens, I am committed to ensure we’re not leaving the rest of the world behind,” said Gould, who was appointed Friday as the co-chair of the COVAX international engagement group.
The appointment will see Gould working with the Indonesian foreign minister, the Ethiopian health minister and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which has emerged in the last two decades as the major distributor of vaccines to poor countries.
“Canada has invested $865 million into global health efforts against COVID-19 and continues to make equitable access to a vaccine and health solutions to the pandemic a reality for all, including refugees living in precarious conditions,” said Gould.
In an updated mandate letter released Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Gould to work with new Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau and other cabinet colleagues to “reinforce international efforts to ensure that people around the world have access to health interventions to fight COVID-19, including vaccines, therapeutics and strengthened health systems.”
Rema Jamous Imseis, the Canadian representative for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said if refugees aren’t vaccinated, they run the risk of infecting people in their host countries.
“If you want to defeat the pandemic, you have to include refugees in the vaccine rollout around the world,” she said.
“That’s sort of the bigger context and what we’re doing is calling on all governments, Canada included, to ensure that refugees and other displaced populations are included.”
Jordan is also the home to the Zaatari refugee camp, one of the world’s largest, less than 15 kilometres from the Syrian border. It is home to almost 80,000 people, including more than 40,000 children, fleeing the carnage of Syria’s decade-long civil war and the unrest sparked by Islamic militants in Iraq.
Canada has deployed hundreds of military personnel to northern Iraq and neighbouring Kuwait as part of a Western effort to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Canada supplies the commander of the NATO training mission in northern Iraq that is trying to professionalize Iraqi security forces to protect its own citizens from ISIL.
“COVID has essentially been an emergency on top of an emergency for refugees around the world,” said Jamous Imseis.
“Canada came out early and strong as one of the donors to the COVAX initiative,” she added.
“But we also need Canada to use its influence with his friends and other countries around the world to ensure that that basic principle of equitable and global access to vaccines for everyone is something that we’re all working towards.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021.
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