‘Unforgivable': Experts Respond to Spoilage of COVID Vaccines at VA Medical Center

Nearly 2,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine were destroyed when a freezer was accidentally unplugged at the VA Medical Center in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

The spoilage of nearly 2,000 COVID-19 vaccines at the VA Medical Center in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood sparked a reaction from people in the city.

Anna Nagurney, a professor of operations management at the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is an expert in supply chains, including vaccine rollouts. She says the loss of 1,900 vaccine doses should never have happened.

"I think it's actually unforgivable," she said. "We cannot afford to be wasting our vaccines."

A lot of people are eager to get the coronavirus vaccine, but some people of color in hard-hit communities are still hesitant to get it.

The medical center tossed out the doses, which were ruined after the freezer they were stored in was accidentally unplugged.

"You just can't have that happening," said Nagurney. "We need better security, we need better quality control. It can't be a matter of someone unplugging the refrigerators. That's absolutely ridiculous."

The freezer had an alarm system that should have warned staff when the temperatures dropped, but the alarm failed to go off, according to the VA.

"We have reactivated the alarm," said Vincent Ng, director of the VA Boston health care system. "We tested it several times, and it does work, so that has been fixed, but we want to find out what the root cause is."

The VA says replenishment doses are coming, and there should not be a disruption to its vaccination effort.

Nagurney says overall, the supply chain across the country has been working -- the majority of the problems have been coming at the end of the line in getting doses into arms.

"And you're seeing that a lot of the failures are happening in that last mile," said Nagurney. "They're already at the facilities but they haven't been administered to the people. Something's going wrong."

She is optimistic that mass vaccination sites will help move the process along, but there needs to be a more cohesive plan.

"What I'm seeing is essentially, we're like 50 different states," said Nagurney. "We're not the United States of America."

Contact Us