Cause of Health Board cold store temperature rise still unknown

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A cold storage unit at the Health Board. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

It is still not known why the temperature rose in the Health Board's cold storage units, destroying hundreds of thousands of vaccines and medicines, the director general of the Estonian Health Board said on Tuesday.

Üllar Lanno, director general of the Estonian Health Board, said at a press conference on Tuesday on the investigation of the rise in the temperature of the cold store unit of the Health Board that the chronological sequence of events is clear, but it is not clear why the temperature started to rise.

"It is difficult to say why the temperature began to rise. This will be explained by the technical expert analysis of the equipment," Lanno said.

According to Lanno, the building of the Health Board in Tallinn has a central warehouse for medicines, where there are three cold store units and all of them have a separate cooling system solution and are uniformly controlled and managed.

"The builder has installed an automation warning system, which should sound an alarm in case of temperature fluctuations, and the Health Board has also introduced another monitoring system based on GPS, which shows the location, and a temperature meter has been added as well," he said.

The Health Board chief said that the building's automation is set up to give an error message before the situation arises, and in case of anomalies, an SMS is sent to the security company, which guards 24/7 and calls are also immediately made from there until someone answers.

"After receiving the guard call, the responsible warehouse employee arrives and calls for technical assistance, which is guaranteed by Riigi Kinnisvara AS. If no solution is found within an hour, a decision will be made to evacuate the medicines," Lanno said.

"When we get to the unfortunate Midsummer Day, we see that on the evening of June 21, the temperature rose at 7 p.m. and exceeded 8 degrees, but no alarm went off," he said.

"The mistake we made was that the logs for all the rooms were not viewed immediately after the temperature rise was detected," Lanno said, adding that after notification, all drugs and vaccines were seized.

"What is certain is that COVID-19 vaccination will not be affected by this incident. I have also organized an extraordinary inventory to get an overview of the final situation, which should be completed by July 12," Lanno said.

"Considering that the temperature rose in several storage units and they all had their own refrigeration unit, it is very difficult to say why the temperature started to rise, and this will be explained by technical expert analysis," he added.

The temperature in the storage units of the Health Board rose 10 degrees higher than allowed on Midsummer Day, due to which the quality of vaccines and medicines stored in the cold stores suffered.

The State Agency of Medicines and the Health Board are of the opinion that in the interests of the quality and reliability of immunization, all stocks of vaccines and other medicinal products in the cold stores should be written off.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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