Temperature issues delay shipments of Moderna Covid-19 vaccine in the US

McKesson Corp said that gel packs used in shipping the shots had become too cold. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - McKesson Corp is replacing some shipments of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine after they got too cold in transit, underlining the logistical hurdles the United States vaccination campaign faces as states confront surging demand for the shots.

The company, which is handling distribution of the Moderna vaccine for the US government, said in a statement that some shipments it sent on Sunday (Jan 17) had fallen below their recommended temperature range. McKesson said gel packs used in shipping the shots had become too cold.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday that the city was forced to reschedule 23,000 vaccination appointments due to a delay in the delivery of 103,000 doses of the Moderna shot. A spokesman for the city's health department said the hold-up was due to the temperature issue identified by McKesson.

McKesson didn't say where the affected doses were sent or how many need to be replaced. Additionally, some shipments that were scheduled to be sent out on Monday were found to have the same issue, the company said. McKesson said it did not ship those and would replace them in the next 24 hours.

A handful of states have also reported temperature issues with the vaccine in recent days, compounding worry that some might have to slow or pause their immunisation efforts while they await new inventory. Both the Moderna shot and the vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech must be kept cold, though the latter has to be stored at temperatures that require special equipment.

In Maine, 35 of 50 shipments of the shot arrived out of range on Monday, director of the Maine Centre for Disease Control and Prevention Nirav Shah said in a briefing Tuesday. The affected shipments are equivalent to 4,400 doses.

In Michigan, 21 shipments were affected, or the equivalent of 11,900 doses, spokesman Lynn Sutfin said in an e-mail. Most replacement vials were sent on Monday night and the rest were sent on Tuesday, the state's health department said.

Another six shipments were withheld to check for any issues, possibly delaying scheduled vaccinations at six sites, it said.

A Moderna spokesman said the company has no visibility into deliveries once the US government is in control of the vaccines.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and Operation Warp Speed, the federal initiative overseeing Covid-19 vaccine distribution, are tracking "a few incidents of temperature readings outside the acceptable threshold," CDC spokesman Kristen Nordlund said in an e-mail on Wednesday.

"In every instance, the process worked - the shipment was inspected and replaced, as needed, while any additional safety reviews were conducted," she said.

"We are confident in the integrity of both the safety measures and contingency plans in place to overcome this type of event."

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