Refrigeration malfunction likely renders health department flu vaccine ineffective

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

MOUND CITY – Linn County Commissioners learned on Monday, Dec. 13, that the influenza shots given from Oct. 18 to Nov. 1 were possibly not effective because the refrigeration unit at the health department had gotten too cold.

Linn County Health Department Director Missy Lancaster encouraged people who received shots during that time to come back in for another shot. This is only for the influenza vaccine, not the COVID vaccine.

Linn County Counselor Gary Thompson said that he had met with Lancaster about the problem with the influenza vaccines. The machine that keeps them at the specific temperature failed, and the software that notifies them that they were not kept at the right temperature did not let them know when the temperature went too low – possibly compromising the vaccine’s effectiveness.

“Apparently on the 18th of October it got too cold, and the software did not notify anybody so it was too cold for four hours,” said Thompson. “So it basically damaged the flu vaccine.”

Since the software did not notify anyone, no one knew until the end of the month that it occurred, said Thompson. The health department is going to send out letters to everybody and offer them another flu shot that is viable.

As soon as our new vaccine comes in, people can come in and get another shot, they don’t have to make an appointment, whatever is convenient for them, Lancaster said.

In trying to clarify the problem, Commissioner Danny McCullough asked if health officials knew for certain if the vaccine was damaged.

Thompson said that the manufacturers would not stand behind the compromised vaccine because it was too cold for so long.

“Nothing about the vaccine they got will harm them and it will not harm them to get another one,” Thompson said.

Lancaster said that COVID numbers were trending down a little after having gone up the last two weeks. However, she said, it was likely that there would be a spike again after Christmas.

McCullough thanked her and the health department staff for putting a float in the Pleasanton Parade. Lancaster said that Cynthia Frisbie did a lot of work on the float.

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