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Ohio provider suspended for mishandling, spoiling Covid vaccine doses

About 890 doses designated for eight long-term care facilities are no longer viable because they were improperly stored, the state health department said.

A Columbus, Ohio, vaccine distributor has been suspended after authorities said the company mishandled 890 doses of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine.

In a press release Wednesday, the Ohio Department of Health said the provider, SpecialtyRx, received 1,500 vaccine doses to administer to residents of eight long-term care facilities before Jan. 1.

After administering the initial doses, the remaining ones sat in SpecialtyRx's refrigerator and freezer, where the temperatures were not monitored regularly as required to maintain vaccine viability.

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"The company was exploring a transfer of the doses to another provider when it was discovered that they had failed to appropriately monitor temperatures in their refrigerator and freezer," the health department said in the release.

The state agency investigated and determined the 890 doses were not viable. Officials also "immediately halted any future allocations to Specialty Rx, and the provider has been instructed to not administer or transfer any of the affected doses and to keep them quarantined in both units until next steps are given," the health department said.

The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines require supercold temperatures for long-term storage and can only spend short periods of time in normal freezers.

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"ODH requires all COVID-19 vaccine providers to check and record the minimum and maximum temperatures of cold storage refrigerators and/or freezers each workday," authorities said.

"The first doses of the Moderna vaccine that were administered to the residents and staff of the long-term care facilities were viable," the health department said. "For the second dose, the long term care facilities will have to coordinate with another provider which will likely be the local health department."

According to a count by NBC News, Ohio has recorded 842,433 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic. Less than 1 percent of the state's population has been vaccinated.

NBC News reached out to SpecialtyRx but did not immediately receive a reply.