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COVID-19 vaccine doses spoiled at Jamaica Plain VA facility

Nearly 2,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19 were spoiled earlier this week when a cleaning contractor accidentally loosened an electric plug on a freezer at the Jamaica Plain VA Medical Center, officials said Thursday.

Staff at the VA Boston Pharmacy found on Tuesday that the freezer had failed and 1,900 doses of the vaccine stored inside had been compromised, according to Kyle Toto, a spokesman for the VA Boston Healthcare System.

“The freezer was in a secure location and had an alarm system installed,” Toto said in an e-mail. “The plug was found loose after a contractor accidentally removed it while cleaning. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the incident and why the monitoring and alarm system did not work as expected.”


Replacement doses are on their way, and the VA does not expect its vaccination effort to be disrupted, Toto said.

The vaccine rollout has been plagued with issues in Massachusetts and across the country.

On Thursday, the Biden adminsistration announced a broad new front to combat the coronavirus, including better coordination of vaccine distribution. President Biden proposed an increase in the production of vaccines, ending the policy of holding back large numbers of doses, and encouraging states to expand access to frontline essential workers and people over the age of 65.

Governor Charlie Baker expressed hope Thursday that the state would receive larger quantities of the vaccine, estimating that the Biden administration’s plan would increase the number of doses by 25 percent. Massachusetts is currently receiving about 80,000 a week, and so far there have been 377,459 doses administered in the state, the governor said.

Elsewhere around the country, vaccine distribution has run into issues with delivery, storage, and distribution.

In late December, Wisconsin officials said a pharmacist at a suburban Milwaukee medical center deliberately removed hundreds of coronavirus vaccine doses from refrigeration and left them out overnight. The pharmacist was fired and later arrested.


Just days ago, California’s state epidemiologist recommended that the state pause the distribution of more than 330,000 doses of the Cambridge company’s vaccine after a “higher than usual” number of people showed signs of a possible severe allergic reaction.

Two days later, health officials in Maine and Michigan said more than 16,000 doses spoiled because of temperature control problems during delivery and would probably have to be disposed of.

And on Wednesday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city was rescheduling 23,000 vaccine appointments because of a supply shortage. He said Moderna and Texas-based distributor McKesson Corp. had told city officials that 103,000 doses expected to arrive Tuesday will be delayed for a couple of days, according to Bloomberg News.

Vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech were cleared for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration last month and rely on new technology called messenger RNA. They were a remarkable 95 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 in large late-stage studies.

Both vaccines must be kept at super-cold temperatures during delivery. The Moderna vaccine must be stored between minus 13 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In both the Maine and Michigan episodes, the shipments got too cold.

Andrea Estes of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was also used.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.