KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Knox County Health Department made the public aware of a mistake that cost the county 975 Pfizer vaccines. The mistake, according to KCHD Director Dr. Martha Buchanan, was made by an employee who believed a shipment of vaccines to be a box of dry ice and it was “disposed of.”

Thursday, a spokesperson with KCHD said there is no evidence that the vaccine shipment arrived at the Knox County Health Department.

KCHD requested the state to investigate.

In a press conference Wednesday, Buchanan said boxes with the vaccine and boxes with dry ice are received on an alternating schedule and it is believed the boxed arrived out of order.

However, Thursday, a Pfizer spokesperson shared a statement with WATE 6 On Your Side that there was not an issue on the delivery end.

A spokesperson said they are aware of the incident.

This occurred after Pfizer safely delivered the vaccine within all specifications to the point of use facility, and the order was accepted.

Pfizer ships whatever order quantity a certain location asked for, and monitors the temperature and routes of the vaccines throughout the shipment process. Once the vaccines are received and accepted by the point of use facility, the facility is responsible for monitoring the temperature or location.

Pfizer has a 99.99% success rate in getting shippers containing our COVID-19 vaccine to their destination within all our prespecified parameters.

Pfizer Spokesperson, to WATE 6 On Your Side

KCHD vaccine management protocol

A spokesperson for the Knox County Health Department outlined the protocol when vaccine shipments arrive in Knox County. Although the full vaccine management plan cannot be disclosed, for security reasons, the spokesperson said there are steps in place moving forward that would prevent vaccine to go missing.

  • A calendar reminder will be created to advise when to expect second doses, since no shipment notifications are received. 
  • KCHD will check with IT to ensure that Pfizer notification emails are not being restricted by local electronic firewalls
  • Will expand personnel involved
  • Vaccine will always be received by at least two team members. 
  • Every shipping box will be fully inspected

The KCHD team is notified of a vaccine delivery. It is then inspected, along with the documents that accompany it, and the vaccine is stored according to manufacturer guidelines.  

Per standard protocols, KCHD reported to the state who then communicates directly with Pfizer. To be clear, there is no record vaccine was discarded. KCHD disposed of a box that appeared to contain only dry ice, no packing slip and no visible GPS or temperature tracker.

Deborah Crouse, JIC spokesperson

A spokesperson for the East Tennessee Regional Health Office said there have not been any issues with misplaced vaccines reported in any of the 10 counties in the jurisdiction.

That includes Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Cocke, Hamblen, Loudon, Monroe, Morgan, Roane, and Sevier counties.

As of Feb. 9, 0.1% of total doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been reported as wasted statewide, according to the regional health office spokesperson.