January 18, 2021

YLE: COVID-19 Vaccine Cold Chain Broke in Finland – 50 Doses Were Given ASAP: “We Were Really in a Hurry to Avoid Spoilage”

The QR logging device gave an alert on cold chain breach, giving staff an hour to prepare the doses and six hours to find the people to receive them.
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The article has originally been published by the Finnish national news YLE on Friday 15.1. In Finnish. The original article can be found here: Toimitettujen koronarokotteiden kylmäketju katkesi ja 50 annosta annettiin pikana: "Tulihan siinä kiire pistää ennen kuin ne pilaantuvat"

A COVID-19 vaccine cold chain breach caused a rush last Thursday afternoon at the public healthcare stations in Tervola and Simo, Finland. The original plan was to start the vaccinations on Friday.

A container containing 54 vaccines arrived from the central hospital via the Finnish national mail service Posti around 4 PM on Thursday afternoon. Another package containing 36 vaccines arrived at 2 PM in Simo, carried by another logistics company.

When the nurse opened the package, they received an alert from the QR logging device and showed that the cold chain had broken during the transportation. The vaccines could not be stored any longer.

A call to the central hospital pharmacy ensured that the staff had an hour to prepare the vaccine doses for injection, and six to inject the right people with them.

“We were really in a hurry to avoid spoilage. We were sweating there for a while, but we tackled the challenge and started reaching out to the first people, all healthcare workers, to receive the vaccine”, says Heidi Ylimikkotervo, director of the Tervola Terveystalo healthcare station.

Tervola worked on injections late into the evening

Thanks to the prompt action by the healthcare staff, both locations reached all of the healthcare workers to be injected, and the vaccine batch was safely used. In addition to healthcare employees, some long-time customers of the elderly care unit received the vaccine.

“By half past eight in the evening we had injected all 54 doses of the vaccine. An enormous ‘thank you’ to everyone in the staff. We couldn’t have done it without them”, Heidi Ylimikkotervo thanks her staff.

The Simo healthcare station was done with the injections in three hours.

“This caused quite a hassle at the healthcare station, but the staff performed perfectly”, says Tuula Saukkonen the medical director in Simo.

The reason for the cold chain breach remains unknown and is being investigated. In any case, the vaccines had started their journey from the Kemi central hospital to Tervola and Simo on Thursday, indicating that the vaccine containers were not kept in the delivery cars for a longer period of time than is acceptable.

Vaccines were shipped to Ylitornio at the same time, but the same issue did not occur.

“We are investigating if the container has possibly been too close to the heater in the car, and gotten too warm due to that. Another option is that there has been an issue with the cold containers already when the vaccine doses were being packaged. The hospital pharmacy investigates the reason for the cold chain breaches”, says Jyri J. Taskila, the medical director at the central hospital. 

The issue has most likely to do with the cold elements in the packaging

The temperature challenge in the context of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, packaging, and logistics has been researched furiously by the central hospital pharmacy in charge of the process in the Länsi-Pohja region in Finland.

“At this point it seems that the issue has most likely to do with the cold elements in the packaging, definitely not with the logistics companies we’re using”, says pharmacist Riikka Vänskä.

According to Vänskä, the hospital pharmacy uses a validated cold packaging system for packaging the vaccine doses. The system unfortunately seems to have failed in these two vaccine packages, causing the temperature to rise above 8 degrees Celsius and making the vaccines unsafe for any further storage.

In addition to the Tervola and Simo cases, other cases have not occurred in the area. Now the cold chain is being tested by sending out test packages on multiple days and monitoring the temperature development.

“What happened is very unfortunate and we are sorry for it. A huge ‘thank you’ to Simo and Tervola, the prompt and responsible action to get the vaccine doses used is commendable. Disposing of the vaccine doses would definitely not have been an option now that every dose is badly needed”, pharmacist Riikka Vänskä states.



The article has originally been published by the Finnish national news YLE on Friday 15.1. In Finnish. The original article can be found here: Toimitettujen koronarokotteiden kylmäketju katkesi ja 50 annosta annettiin pikana: "Tulihan siinä kiire pistää ennen kuin ne pilaantuvat"