Nearly 600 vaccine doses discarded at Kansas hospital due to handling error

Andrew Bahl
Topeka Capital-Journal
Stormont Vail employees administer doses of the COVID-19 vaccine Friday at the Stormont Vail Events Center.

A Kansas hospital had to discard nearly 600 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, officials say — roughly the same amount as has been wasted overall statewide since vaccination began in December.

LMH Hospital in Lawrence said in a news release Thursday that it had to discard 570 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after the shipment was mistakenly placed in a freezer, even though the doses had already been thawed.

Standard protocol is that shipments of vaccines will arrive frozen, but this wasn't the case with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The hospital said they were reviewing protocols to ensure the mistake isn't repeated going forward.

“Although this is a small percentage of the overall vaccines that the county has received, we know it is not insignificant — this is a heart-wrenching situation for our hospital, our Phase 2 community members and our Unified Command partners,” LMH Health president and CEO Russ Johnson said in a statement.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment will replace the doses next week, the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department later said in a statement.

KDHE reported that between December 21 and March 8, 632 doses in Kansas had been deemed to have been wasted because they expired before they could be used or were broken.

Statewide, 18.1% of Kansans have received at least one vaccine dose, with 790,929 doses administered. 

KDHE Secretary Lee Norman said on a conference call Friday that there was reason for optimism for vaccination in the state, with more doses going to the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.

Walmart, Dillons and other retailers were adjusting eligibility requirements accordingly, allowing teachers, grocery store workers and other individuals to get their shots.

Kansas sits at 45th nationally for vaccine doses administered per capita, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Norman said earlier this week that a fix to improve data submitted to the federal government should begin having an effect on the state's national ranking soon.

Statewide, cases of COVID-19 continue to fall. KDHE reported an increase of 519 cases since Wednesday, with no new deaths reported. Thirty-six new hospitalizations also were reported.

The state has a seven-day rolling average of 298 new cases per day, a tenth of the rate at the height of the pandemic in November.

"Kansas really is controlling the spread of the virus in our state," Gov. Laura Kelly said on the conference call Friday.