Nearly a thousand people given expired COVID-19 vaccine doses in NYC’s Times Square

The New York Health Department has reported that nearly nine hundred COVID-19 vaccines distributed over a week ago were found to be expired, but says there is no danger for the affected patients.

The BioNTech-Pfizer doses were given as part of the United States’ widespread effort to reach herd immunity and vaccinate 70-85% of the population. That number is estimated by Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. ABC News reported that all defective doses were distributed between June 5 and June 10 in a new pop-up clinic run by the vaccine distributor ATC Vaccination Services. After the error became apparent, ATC contacted and alerted all patients about the mishap. The New York Health Department is now recommending that all those affected get another dose of the Pfizer vaccine to ensure they are fully protected.

The expiration dates for each vaccine vary, but they are based on that vaccine’s “potency assay”, or the amount of time the vaccine stays at a concentration high enough to cause a sufficient immune response in the patient (Los Angeles Times). The potency assay is determined from data that the vaccine manufacturer collects, analyzes, and submits to regulators. The CDC explains that because the Pfizer dose is an mRNA-type vaccine, there are very specific storage requirements to make the vaccine effective. This includes keeping the vaccine vials in an ultra-cold freezer for storage and removing them only once they need to be thawed for distribution. However, it was reported that the Times Square vaccines remained in the freezer for too long, making the efficacy unknown and leaving the patients at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 (CBS News).

With heightened concern and conversation surrounding the safety and efficacy of vaccines, reports of defective doses could add fuel to the fire of skepticism. However, ATC Vaccination Services released a public statement saying, “We apologize for the inconvenience to those receiving the vaccine batch in question and want people first and foremost to know that we have been advised that there is no danger from the vaccine they received.” While it is inconvenient for the patients affected, the probability of receiving an expired dose is exceedingly rare. According to the CDC, there are now 147.8 million fully-vaccinated in the United States and the number of COVID-19 cases continues to fall. The CDC continues to encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.


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