Hundreds given expired COVID vaccines at veterans hospital in NC, officials say

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Nearly 300 people in Eastern North Carolina received expired doses of a COVID-19 vaccine this summer through the Fayetteville VA Coastal Health Care System, officials said.

The expired doses were administered to at least 281 veterans, spouses, caregivers and employees, spokesperson Gail Cureton confirmed in a statement to McClatchy News. Clinicians have been in touch with “nearly all” of the individuals affected, Cureton said, but some are still being notified.

The Fayetteville VA Coastal Health Care System services about 74,000 veterans living in 19 counties across Southeastern North Carolina, according to its website.

Cureton said the expired doses were given between June 23 and Aug. 19 at the Fayetteville VA Health Care Center.

It wasn’t immediately clear on Friday how they came to be administered, but the doses were from a batch of the Pfizer vaccine “that was frozen between 1 to 21 days longer than the manufacturer’s cold temperature storage requirements support,” Cureton said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pfizer vaccine can be stored in an ultra-cold freezer between -90 degrees and -60 degrees Celsius until its expiration date. It can also be stored in a freezer between -25 degrees and -15 degrees Celsius for up to two weeks or in a refrigerator between 2 degrees and 8 degrees Celsius for up to one month.

Because of its stringent storage requirements, Cureton said in the statement, minor deviations “may reduce the full effectiveness of the vaccine.”

The CDC specifically warns providers to “NEVER use expired vaccine or diluent.”

Vaccine experts with the Department of Veterans Affairs reached out to scientists with Pfizer after the discovery of the expired doses was made, Cureton said.

“Based on these discussions, the vaccine received does not pose any known health risk,” she said. “Out of an abundance of caution for those affected, we have recommended that those affected receive another Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.”

Information about booking a vaccine appointment through the Fayetteville VA can be found here.

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