KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knox County Health Department has requested the state to investigate 975 second-dose Pfizer vaccines that have gone missing after the state confirmed the shipment to KCHD, but they have no record of receiving the vaccines.

KCHD reports the 975 doses equal 1.7% of all vaccines distributed in the county So far more than 56,000 doses have been administered in Knox County.

“This is something you certainly hope never happens, and we are working with the state to determine how it did. It is an unfortunate situation, but in the meantime, our vaccination efforts continue unabated.”

Knox County Health Department Director Martha Buchanan

Knox County has mainly distributed Moderna vaccines in the early stages of COVID-19 vaccination, which has a different logistical process than Pfizer.

In a press conference, Dr. Martha Buchanan said they believe that the box containing the doses was mistaken for dry ice and was discarded.

“The boxes have monitors on them, no alert was ever received,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan also said boxes with the vaccine and boxes with dry ice are received on an alternating schedule. It is believed the boxed arrived out of order.

The Knox County Health Department requested the state to investigate.

“The temperature monitor didn’t work, the tracking on the box didn’t work and we need to know why,” Buchanan said.

For around three weeks now, KCHD has been administering the Pfizer vaccine dose, and this instance was the first time the department had received doses from Pfizer.

The Health Department was notified of the shipment of first-dose Pfizer vaccines, which are sent in unmarked boxes as a safety precaution. The shipment was received as expected. However, no shipment or delivery notification was received for the allotment of second-dose vaccines.

After noticing this “potential discrepancy” KCHD notified the Tennessee Department of Health to further investigate.

“Pfizer uses GPS-enabled thermal sensors to track the location and temperature of each vaccine shipment in hopes of preventing route deviations or product loss, so it is unclear how an error like this could occur. To be clear, no misconduct is suspected.

The national vaccine effort is logistically challenging and a huge undertaking. Unfortunately, these are not the nation’s first vaccines to be lost or wasted. KCHD has conducted a thorough review of its processes from start to finish, has put in place additional control measures, and continues to seek information from the state.”


Buchanan said no one is expected to miss their second-dose as a result of the lost shipment.

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs released the following statement:

“I am proud of Dr. Martha Buchanan and I am confident in the good work the Knox County Health Department does every day. I certainly wish this had not happened, but I also think it’s unrealistic to believe that when you’re undertaking an operation of this magnitude mistakes won’t be made. KCHD is taking a close look at their processes and will do everything they can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”