* Review found expired vaccines mixed in with others
* Some vaccines could be less effective
* Report probed 45 vaccine providers in five states
By Anna Yukhananov
WASHINGTON, June 6 Free vaccines meant for
children as part of a U.S. government program may have been
stored at the wrong temperature, which could make them less
effective, according to a report released on Wednesday.
The report also found that both expired and unexpired
vaccines had been stored together in some doctors' offices and
clinics, which could potentially lead to mistakes in giving the
wrong version, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in the
Department of Health and Human Services said.
The findings could apply to a much wider lot of vaccines,
since many of the same clinics that provide free immunizations
for low-income children also give shots to insured children.
"We do know that vaccines exposed to temperatures that are
too warm, too cold, or past the expiration date, may not provide
maximum protection against disease," Holly Williams, a program
analyst in the OIG's office, said in a podcast interview posted
online. She added that the vaccines are still safe.
The OIG visited 45 medical practices from the five areas
that ordered the most vaccines in 2010: California, Florida,
Georgia, New York City and Texas. Together, they accounted for
36 percent of all vaccine orders that year.
The inspectors found 76 percent of the offices or clinics
had stored vaccines at the wrong temperature for at least five
hours in a row during a two-week period. These improperly stored
vaccines were worth nearly $370,000.
The study also found 13 of the 45 providers mixed expired
and unexpired vaccines, and 16 of them kept expired vaccines.
Since 1994, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) has been providing free vaccines to children when parents
cannot afford them or do not have insurance. The Vaccines for
Children program spent $3.6 billion in 2010 to give 82 million
vaccines to some 40 million children.
The federal government gives grants to state or local health
departments, who then distribute the vaccine funds to 44,000
doctors' offices and clinics.
None of the providers managed vaccines according to all the
program's rules, or had the proper documentation. And none of
the five state or city agencies that gave the grants met all the
The CDC agreed to work with clinics and states to make sure
the vaccines are better managed, and said the United States
still has one of the best vaccination rates in the world, with
90 percent or greater reduction in preventable diseases.
The CDC said its efforts could help vaccine management in
general, since 90 percent of U.S. children are vaccinated by
medical practices that participate in the Vaccines for Children
Vaccines from companies including Sanofi SA, Merck
& Co Inc and GlaxoSmithKline PLC provide
protection against communicable diseases such as diphtheria,
tetanus, measles and meningococcal disease.