State calls for audit of Health Care District of Palm Beach County after COVID-19 vaccine spoiled

More than 1,000 doses of vaccine spoiled when refrigerator accidentally turned off
Posted at 9:37 AM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 17:31:38-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Florida Department of Health has called for an audit of the Health Care District of Palm Beach County after more than 1,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were spoiled.

A spokeswoman for the Health Care District said last week that 232 refrigerated vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were discovered to be outside the required temperature control range.

Those vials contained 1,160 doses of the vaccine.

Spokeswoman Robin Kish said the incident was caused when the power to the refrigerator storing the vaccine was "unintentionally turned off."

"It is a tragedy that even one dose of this critical resource would go to waste and not be used to save a life from COVID-19," Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees said in a statement Wednesday. "In Florida, we have been diligent to preserve and utilize every single dose of the vaccine. While we must rely on partners to distribute this critical resource, we expect that every provider treat the vaccine as the precious commodity that it is."

Dr. Scott Rivkees, Florida Surgeon General in 2020
Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees listens during a news conference at a COVID-19 testing site at Hard Rock Stadium, Wednesday, May 6, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

State health officials are asking the Health Care District to perform a full accounting of all vaccine-related equipment and procedures it has in place to store and handle the vaccine.

The audit will need to be completed by Friday, with any corrective actions reported to the state immediately thereafter.

"We hope to see this situation rectified and addressed immediately to ensure the Palm Beach County Health Care District does not let one more dose go to waste," Rivkees said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said he agreed with the request.

"I think it's 100% appropriate to do so," DeSantis said during a news conference in Pahokee.

Scott on Health Care District audit: '100% appropriate'

Kish released a statement later in the day, saying the Health Care District would "fully comply with this request."

"This was a single, isolated incident caused by human error that had absolutely no impact on patient safety," the statement said, in part. "The Health Care District also regards the loss of even a single vaccine as one too many."

Kish said the Health Care District "has implemented extra layers of safeguards that include centralizing all COVID-19 supplies daily at a secure location" with a generator backup system.

"The public should have the utmost confidence in the integrity of our vaccination system," the statement said.