Tue, November 30, 2021


Over 7,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine wasted in Japan

More than 7,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been wasted amid the nationwide rollout of inoculations, due to errors involving such elements as the storage and dilution of vaccines, a Yomiuri Shimbun survey has found.

The Yomiuri Shimbun compiled the data based on interviews with Tokyo’s 23 wards and the 46 prefectural capitals, as well from cases announced by local governments.

According to the Yomiuri’s findings, the National Hospital Organization Omuta National Hospital in Omuta, Fukuoka Prefecture, and vaccination venues in Kobe wasted more than 2,000 doses of vaccine produced by U.S. maker Pfizer Inc. due to incorrect handling of the drug. In one case, vaccine that needed to be stored in extremely cold conditions was left at room temperature.

■ Storage temperatures

“We didn’t fully understand the facilities at the venues and the inoculation manual, so we ended up making a series of mistakes,” Hiroyuki Saito said in an interview Thursday. Saito, formerly head of the city’s environment preservation department, was recently appointed as the Kobe city government’s vaccination control supervisor.

Pfizer’s vaccine is widely used for the inoculation of medical workers and elderly people. The frozen vials are thawed in a refrigerator and diluted with saline before administration. If they are thawed at room temperature, they need to be diluted within two hours.

On May 11, vaccine delivered to three venues in Kobe was taken out of cold storage containers and handed over to workers commissioned by the city government as venue staff. However, city officials with the keys to the freezers were not present, so the vaccines were left at room temperature for about two hours, resulting in a total of 960 doses becoming unusable.

To prevent a recurrence of such mistakes, the local government set up the post of vaccination control supervisor to strengthen the system. However, another mishap occurred on May 23. On that day, a total of 215 doses had to be thrown away after the cold storage unit at a vaccination venue was found to have been unplugged, causing the unit’s temperature to rise to 21 C.

In Omuta, Fukuoka Prefecture, 1,044 doses of the vaccines were wasted at the National Hospital Organization Omuta National Hospital on May 28 because a box containing 175 vials was taken out of the freezer and left at room temperature for about three hours after only one vial was used for administration.

“Compared to other vaccines commonly used, the Pfizer one is particularly difficult to handle, because it must be stored at extremely low temperatures under strict control,” said an official in charge. “We want to make sure that we confirm the work procedures thoroughly with the check sheets.”

In Tokyo, a total of 12 doses were wasted at a vaccination site in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on May 17 and 19 due to an error in which the vaccine was diluted to twice the prescribed level. A staff member mistakenly added saline to doses that had been already diluted by another staffer.

“The medical workers and other staff in charge at vaccination sites change daily. Once again, we want to make sure we communicate more to check the procedures,” said an official in charge at the Minato Ward Office.

■ Cancellations

In many cases, vaccine had to be thrown away due to people not showing up for their scheduled reservations.

In Shizuoka, about 30 doses planned to be used for senior citizens were left over on May 26 and 27 due to such reasons as sudden cancellations. The Shizuoka city government decided to administer the shots to health center employees at short notice but had to throw away 19 doses because it could not find people who wanted to be vaccinated.

In an effort to reduce such waste, the Setagaya Ward Office in Tokyo asked kindergartens, nursery schools and elementary and junior high schools near vaccination venues to make a list of people who can come to the sites within 10 minutes after receiving a call in the event of a sudden cancellation.

Inoculation venues in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward thaw and dilute a smaller amount of vials than are expected to be needed, to minimize leftover doses due to cancellations.

Vaccinations in Japan began on Feb. 17 for front-line medical workers. Senior citizens and others became eligible on April 12.

As of Thursday, a total of about 8.09 million doses had been administered to mainly medical workers and about 7.51 million doses to the elderly.

Published : June 07, 2021

By : The Japan News/ANN