Over 1 000 Covid-19 vaccine shots wasted in Japan due to freezer malfunction

File picture: AP Photo

File picture: AP Photo

Published Mar 1, 2021


Tokyo – More than 1 000 shots of a coronavirus vaccine went to waste in Japan after storage temperatures deviated from a required range due to a freezer malfunction, the health ministry said on Monday.

This is the first such case of wasted vaccines in the country. Japan became the last member of the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations to begin its vaccination drive against Covid-19 on February 17.

It has so far received three shipments of vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech, comprising around 1.4 million shots.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has to be stored at a temperature of around minus 75 Celsius (minus 103 Fahrenheit).

A medical institution reported that the freezer malfunction had occurred over the weekend, rendering 172 vials of the vaccine, or 1 032 doses, useless, the ministry said.

It declined to identify the name of the medical institution or the manufacturer of the freezer in question, but said the freezer maker would start looking into the cause of the malfunction on Tuesday.

At the end of last month, nearly 100 vaccine providers in North Carolina reported discarding Covid-19 doses, according to records the ABC11 I-Team obtained from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).

Of the 1.8 million doses the state has administered, 2 346 doses (0.1%) were deemed unusable as of February 18.

Vaccine providers attribute the waste to shipping issues, lack of patients, refrigeration problems and user errors.

Johnson & Johnson says it will be able to provide 20 million Covid-19 vaccine doses by end of March

The I-Team previously reported around 0.2-0.3% of doses from providers around the Triangle went to waste. The newly obtained data shows a better picture of this waste statewide.

"As with any vaccine distribution, it is anticipated that there will be minor accidents resulting in vaccine being discarded due to expiration or broken vials, but healthcare providers have been working hard to ensure all vaccines are used and stored properly," a NCDHHS spokesperson wrote to the I-Team in an email.

NCDHHS said it has not received any reports of significant batches being lost.


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