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4,400 doses, deemed out of temperature range, were too cold

Six additional deaths, 675 new COVID-19 cases
By Fran Gonzalez | Jan 21, 2021

Augusta — Based on statements made by Moderna vaccine manufacturer McKesson, the 4,400 doses recently discovered out of the required temperature range in Maine could possibly have been kept too cold.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday, Jan. 21, how cold, for how long and what the impact to the vaccine might be, are all questions the U.S. CDC will need to answer soon.

McKesson claims the gel packs keeping the vaccines cold in transit were frozen and the required temperature was below where it should be, according to Shah. "Initially we thought it had gotten too warm."

There is a possibility, he said, the vaccines can eventually be used, once they are thoroughly vetted. All the replacement doses have arrived in Maine, and the event has only slightly slowed operations in the state.

"We don't know when they will complete their analysis," Shah said, and added that the multi-layered process to identify defective doses worked exactly as it should have.

"Not one dose has been administered (from this lot) in Maine," he said.

Regarding the state's effort to vaccinate residents, Shah said overall 92,008 doses have been administered in Maine so far. This includes 74,760 people who have received their first dose and 17,248 people who have gotten both required shots.

Week seven dose allocation for the state, Shah said, was less than the previous week by 975 doses. "This will present challenges, with demand outstripping supply," he noted.

The first large-scale vaccination venue was discussed, as MaineHealth announced recently the former Scarborough Downs is poised to begin operations once a supply is available.

Shah said there are many factors that go into the planning of such a site, including sufficient IT and parking, good ventilation and easy access that does not cause congestion. "This is one of the ways we can vaccinate high numbers of people safely," he said.

"It's like having a bunch of different cashiers at a grocery store," he said. "This new line is an express lane."

The facility, he said, will complement other vaccine sites and give people options for where they can get vaccinated. Making a reservation will still be essential, he said. For a list of vaccination sites for people 70 and older, visit maine.gov/covid19/vaccines/vaccination-sites.

Shah said if accessing the website is difficult, "see if there is someone in your life that can help you navigate." Other resources can be found by dialing 211 on a telephone, or, as a last resort, calling a local hospital, he said.

When asked about the large jumps in recent daily case counts, Shah said they are a result of the way people are tested, then get results and then how the results are reported to the Maine CDC. "You see a sawtooth pattern," he said.

One area of concern, he said, is the overall increase in hospitalizations and especially of people in intensive care units. On a more optimistic note, he added, the seven-day positivity rate has decreased from 5.1% a week ago to 4.1% today.

Shah said the Maine CDC received reports today of six more people who have died with COVID-19, making a total of 536 deaths since the pandemic began. On Tuesday, Jan. 19, 519 deaths were reported. Shah noted that nationally the death count had just exceeded 400,000.

Since yesterday, five men and one woman died because of the virus. Two were from Cumberland County, one from Kennebec County, one from Penobscot County, one from Washington County, and one from York County. Three of the people were in their 70s while the rest were in their 80s.

The Maine CDC has received reports of 675 new COVID-19 cases statewide since yesterday.

The hospitalizations dropped slightly to 182 from Tuesday's 191 total, with 54 in critical care and 21 on ventilators.

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