NEWARK, NJ – The city is investigating the handling of 300 Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses that could not be used because they were not refrigerated in a timely manner, said Dr. Mark Wade, director of the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness.
The city is also making some changes to how the vaccines will be handled once they are delivered. “We have revised our delivery and evaluation procedures and protocols, which are closely monitored to prevent this from happening again,” said Wade.
Newark receives between 1,500 and 2,000 vaccines per week that are delivered to the Department of Health and Community Welfare. Once the shipments are in, Wade will announce that they will be sent to the department’s locations at 110 William Street and University Ave. 394 to be sent. The city’s hospitals and state-qualified health centers also receive their own assignments, according to the director.
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The Moderna vaccine has an effectiveness of 94% and is approved for people aged 18 and over. The vaccine must be kept at a temperature between -13 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Locations without adequate ultra-cold storage can cool cans between 36 and 46 degrees for up to 30 days.
The providers have to thaw, prepare and administer vaccines, as the manufacturer says. Depending on how the cans are stored, medical professionals have a short window of time to administer the vaccines to patients.
The vaccine requires two doses four weeks apart. The second shot can be given up to six weeks (42 days) after the first dose. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend following the vaccination schedule.
The investigation comes as the city has made increased efforts in recent months to vaccinate residents. In February, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka joined several community religious leaders as they received their vaccines at the Ward’s Department of Health and Welfare on William Street.
These efforts followed a partnership Essex County officials announced last month that they would partner with local religious leaders to ensure trust in the vaccine and support equitable access in the area’s minority communities.
Earlier this week, city officials also visited a pop-up clinic at Barringer High School hosted by the Newark Public Schools District to begin vaccinating teachers and school support staff across Newark. As one of the first major efforts to get educators vaccinated, the site is also open to staff from charter, private, church, and early childhood centers in the city.
As of March 19, Essex County officials reported that Newark has confirmed 32,969 positive COVID-19 cases and 890 COVID deaths.