State lets Salem off hook on expired vaccines

SALEM – The Salem Health Department won’t have to pay the state to replace two wasted vaccines from the Vaccines for Children program.

Mayor John Berlin reported Friday that the Ohio Department of Health sent a letter this week granting the city health department’s appeal of the order to replace the two vaccines which expired without being used. The replacement costs would have totaled $1,536.

The letter also noted that ODH reviewed the city’s plan to correct the action which resulted in an alleged violation of the VFC program. The state “determined that the response was an acceptable policy update for storage and handling at your facility.”

“I’m very pleased that they granted our request,” Berlin said.

The city received notification in November that there was a violation of the rules for the Vaccines For Children program. Apparently there’s a policy in place that requires the department, as a provider for the Vaccines For Children program, to notify the VFC when an unused vaccine is three months from its expiration date. That did not happen for two vaccines last fall.

The ODH Immunization Program had reviewed a vaccine order and vaccine accountability report from the city health department on Sept. 26 that showed 19 doses of DTaP/IPV and 13 doses of Rotavirus vaccines had expired, but ODH did not receive notification that the doses were due to expire.

“The ODH Vaccine Handling and Wastage Policy indicates that significant losses of non-viable vaccine must be replaced by the VFC provider in cases of non-compliance, including failure to notify ODH of excess stock at least three months prior to expiration,” the notification said.

The department was given two options: either a dose-for-dose replacement at the open-market cost, which would total $1,889; or a dollar-for-dollar replacement at the federal contract price, which would total $1,536.

City Health Commissioner Richard Setty had suggested appealing the order to replace the vaccine and also submitted a corrective action plan. ODH accepted the corrective action plan and granted the appeal, saying the city wouldn’t be responsible for replacing the expired, unused vaccine.

Berlin noted that Setty and the department nurse will make sure protocols are in place so it doesn’t happen again.

The letter from the state explained that ODH verified that the city health district addressed the VFC requirements listed in the corrective action table.

“Your practice is now removed from VFC corrective action status. ODH appreciates your continued participation in the VFC program,” the letter said.

During previous discussion of the violation, Berlin commented that the state sends out letters when vehicle registrations or licenses are due to expire. He questioned why they couldn’t do the same with vaccines.