Thousands of Moderna Vaccine Doses Spoil During Transit

By Arvind Datta | January 24, 2021
Arvind is a recluse who prefers staying far away from the limelight as possible. Be that as it may, he keeps a close eye on what's happening and reports on it to keep people rightly informed.
Twenty-one shipments of Moderna vaccines have been damaged during transportation from failure to maintain temperature limits.

Twenty-one shipments of Moderna vaccines have been damaged during transportation from failure to maintain temperature limits. The shipments contained a total of 11,900 doses of the vaccine. The company responsible for transporting the vaccine has announced that they will investigate the issue to uncover the cause of the mishap. Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health, announced that replacements for the spoilt vaccines will soon be procured.

“Although it is unfortunate that this vaccine will not be able to be used, we are pleased that the safeguards put into place to ensure the integrity of the vaccine worked. This is the first report of vaccine potentially being compromised during shipment in Michigan and we are working quickly with the distributor to have replacement vaccine shipped out… We are committed to accelerating vaccine delivery as we work to reach our goal of vaccinating 70 percent of Michiganders over age 16 as quickly as possible with the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine,” Khaldun said in a statement.

Slight variations in temperature beyond the limits can end up spoiling the vaccine. (Image: Getty Images)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that even though the temperature range of the Moderna vaccine is within that of other routinely recommended vaccines, the range is much tighter. As such, slight variations in temperature beyond the limits can end up spoiling the vaccine altogether.

The Moderna vaccine has different storage temperature limits depending on whether it is kept in a freezer or refrigerator. If using a freezer, the doses have to be stored at a temperature between -25°C and -15°C (-13°F and 5°F). 

However, if the Moderna vaccine is stored in a refrigerator, a temperature range of 2°C to 8°C (36°F to 46°F) will keep it fresh for up to 30 days. Once 30 days are over, the vials must be discarded. Moderna’s storage requirements are less harsh than that of the Pfizer vaccine, which needs to be stored between -60°C and -80°C (-51°F and -62°F) to remain effective. As such, Moderna vaccines are easier to transport, allowing governments to ship them off to remote regions.

Side effects

Moderna vaccines do have some side effects that people need to be aware of. Moderna has been found to cause swelling among people who have used cosmetic facial fillers. These fillers are gel-like substances that are injected into the facial skin to make it look smoother, fuller, and younger. In its phase three clinical trial, two people with fillers reported experiencing the side effects.

“It is possible the localized swelling in these cases is due to an inflammatory reaction from interaction between the immune response after vaccination and the dermal filler. This phenomenon has been reported after natural infection (e.g., after an influenza-like illness),” the FDA said in its briefing document to the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. 

Moderna vaccines could cause swelling in the face. (Image: pixabay /CC0.01)

The good news is that swelling in the face is not a dangerous reaction to the vaccine. It is a natural immune response to sensing an unnatural substance in the body. As such, even if there is a risk that your face might swell, experts recommend taking the vaccine. 

In late December, a doctor from Boston reported a more serious adverse reaction to the Moderna vaccine. His heart rate raced to 150 beats per minute while his blood pressure dropped significantly. A few minutes after the injection, he started feeling numbness in his throat. He was quickly treated and discharged. 

In California, officials put a temporary stop to administering the Moderna vaccine after observing a “higher-than-usual number of possible allergic reactions.” All allergic reactions were experienced by people within 30 minutes of getting injected with the vaccine. The 10 allergic reactions were found to be all from the same lot, and administration has since resumed.

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