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DeWine: COVID-19 Vaccines Mishandled By Walgreens In 5 Northeast Ohio Nursing Homes

[Courtesy Serum Institute of India]

Updated: 4:18 p.m., Tueseday, Feb. 2, 2021

Patients at five congregate living facilities in Northeast Ohio will have to repeat their COVID-19 vaccinations after Walgreens informed the state Tuesday that some doses were not stored at the proper temperature, Gov. Mike DeWine said.

The affected nursing facilities are:

  • The Maples/Ashtabula County Residential Services Corporation
  • Ashtabula Towers
  • Heather Hill Care Communities in Chardon
  • Six Chimneys in Cleveland
  • Willow Park Convalescent Home in Cleveland

"Vaccines were given – and there is no harm to anyone – but these vaccinations will have to be done again," DeWine said. “The problem did not arise at the nursing home is my understanding. My understanding, this problem arose someplace else whenever they were getting the doses.”

The vaccines were not kept at the appropriate temperature consistently, which could make the shot less or simply not effective.

“mRNA vaccines can be challenging to handle because they require ultra-cold storage until they are ready to handle," explained Ohio's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff. "Otherwise, it can't be relied upon to be effective."

Six Chimneys Apartments, one of the facilities affected by Walgreens’ error, is run by the HELP Foundation serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. CEO Tami Honkala told ideastream she didn’t know about the problems with the vaccine until DeWine’s announcement Tuesday afternoon.

“I don’t know how I’m getting calls from reporters and we have not had any contact about this. That’s concerning to us,” she said. “But that is not our first concern, our first concern is for the individuals we serve and that’s what we’re taking care of right now.”

Honkala said she doesn’t know what the next steps will be, because she hasn’t talked to anyone from Walgreens yet, but her primary concern is making sure everyone who wants it gets the vaccine.

“We are now working with Walgreens to get some information, to find out what next steps are, any concerns that they have, a plan of correction to resolve this issue,” Honkala said. “We’re just trying to get some information and work that out.”

Walgreens is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the facilities to determine which patients may need to be re-vaccinated, DeWine and Vanderhoff said during the briefing.

"Patients don't need to do anything. The CDC and the nursing homes and Walgreens are working to identify any individuals who need the vaccine and get it in a timely manner," Vanderhoff said, adding there is a waiting period before the shots can be given again.

“This is really an issue about taking every step that we can to ensure that whenever a person gets a vaccine, they're getting a vaccine that will work,” Vanderhoff said. “This is not an issue, though, of any known harm having been done.”

DeWine said among the state's 645 assisted living facilities, 86 percent have received the first dose and 48 percent have been given the second shot.

The Ohio Department of Health on Tuesday afternoon reported 3,657 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the state’s total reported cases to 902,736. ODH also reported 106 deaths in the state in the previous 24 hours, 221 new hospitalizations and 21 patients admitted to ICUs.

Hospital admissions, though a lagging statistic, continue to hew to the 21-day average, DeWine said, “so we’re very happy to see that.” Last week, the governor announced the state would peg the 10 p.m. curfew to hospitalization numbers and rolled back the curfew by one hour, to 11 p.m., as of Thursday night. A continued drop in Ohio’s hospitalizations over the next week and a half could result in moving the curfew to midnight.

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