All vaccines in Health Board's cold storage unit to be written off

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The Health Board's cold storage unit. Source: Terviseamet

All vaccines and other pharmaceuticals stored at the Health Board's cold storage unit when an increase in temperature occurred are likely to be written off for safety purposes, Mari-Anne Härma, deputy director general of the Estonian Health Board, said.

In total, this is likely to be close to 250,000 doses of medicines and vaccines, ERR's Estonian news portal reported on Wednesday.

Härma said that certain fluctuations in temperature are taken into account in the manufacturing of vaccines and that vaccines do not become harmful to people as a result of an increase in temperature.

"A single deviation in temperature generally only has a small effect but in this case we cannot be certain that the change in temperature that occurred at the central warehouse will be the only one and that no further deviations will happen at the service provider's. If a change in temperature has already affected the quality of vaccines or other pharmaceuticals at the central warehouse, we cannot guarantee their further efficiency because an additional disruption in the cold chain may further reduce their effect. Thus, we can only issue from our warehouse vaccines and medicines the quality of which we can guarantee," she said.

On Tuesday, it was announced that up to 100,000 medicines and vaccines, including 68,000 doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, had been ruined after a cold storage unit belonging to the Health Board mouth functioned and temperatures rose by more than 10 degrees last week.

If the Health Board's most pessimistic forecast materializes, total damages may amount to over €3 million.

Härma said that in addition to investigating the incident, efforts are also being made to replace the spoiled vaccines and pharmaceuticals, starting with those for tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus and rotaviruses.

The cold storage unit contained vaccines for the national immunization plan for children and young people, vaccines for adults, COVID-19 vaccines, medicines for COVID-19 treatment, immunoglobulins and influenza vaccines.

An investigation will determine the detailed reasons for temperature deviations at the cold storage unit and why the automated notification systems failed to send out alerts about the rise in temperature. Until the issue is clarified, temperatures in the Health Board's cold storage unit will be monitored by people around the clock.

The COVID-19 vaccination drive will not be affected by the incident at the Health Board's cold store as the coronavirus vaccines in use are stored at the wholesaler's facilities and in health care establishments.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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