Error forces Kansas hospital to throw out 570 vaccines doses

MISSION, Kan. (AP) – A Kansas hospital had to throw away 570 doses of a coronavirus vaccine because of a refrigeration mistake, officials say.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital said in a news release that city and county health officials transferred the doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the hospital on Wednesday. The hospital then put them in a freezer, not realizing they were thawed. Confusion arose because most doses are shipped frozen, but the health department had received this batch in a refrigerated state.

The hospital reached out to Johnson & Johnson for guidance and was instructed that the doses would have to be discarded.

LMH Health President & CEO Russ Johnson described what happened as a “heart wrenching situation for our hospital.” He said the hospital is reviewing processes aimed at preventing vaccine waste to prevent future errors. Health officials also have requested replacement doses and are working to reschedule appointments.

Meanwhile, it’s not yet clear whether the statewide state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic will remain in effect past March 31, when it is due to expire.

A state of emergency gives the governor and local officials extraordinary power to address a disaster or public health problem, though the Republican-controlled Legislature last year forced Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to accept local control over mask mandates and restrictions on businesses and public gatherings during the pandemic.

State senators and House members are negotiating the final version of a bill that would rewrite the state’s emergency management laws to limit the power of the governor and perhaps even local officials during future public health emergencies, with the talks set to resume Monday.

Versions of the legislation approved by the House and Senate would not extend the existing state of emergency. However, Rep. Fred Patton, a Topeka Republican and the House’s lead negotiator, said the possibility of an extension for limited purposes such as vaccine distribution is being discussed.

“The clock is ticking,” he said.

Top Senate Republicans have said they’d like the state of emergency to expire as scheduled believe new cases are dropping, which would allow remaining local restrictions on businesses to end.

During her most recent Statehouse news conference on COVID-19, Kelly warned that with no state of emergency in effect, Kansas couldn’t take steps such as using its National Guard to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to clinics or to help administer shots.

“There are all sorts of other horrible things that will happen that are not good for Kansans and not fair,” Kelly told reporters.

Case numbers have been falling across the state. In the Topeka area, Shawnee County Commissioners removed all hours restrictions on bars, restaurants and nightclubs.

Commissioner Aaron Mays sought to go further and automatically rescind all health orders and replace them with recommendations, rather than requirements, when the state moves to the next vaccination phase. That is expected to happen next month. But his amendment failed, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

“We are doing well, almost to the point where we can declare we are out of the woods,” he said, noting that vaccines are making a different.

But Dr. Lee Norman, the head of the state health department, said earlier this week that the vaccination rate among prison staff was a concern. The staff and inmates are part of the current vaccination phase because of widespread outbreaks that have infected thousands.

The death Tuesday of an inmate at the Winfield Correctional Facility pushed the state’s death toll among inmates and staff to 21.


Hanna reported from Topeka.

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