Santa Clara County to stop administering Moderna vaccine lot
Oliver Hsu, assistant director of pharmacy, holds a vial containing the COVID-19 vaccine being administered at O'Connor Hospital in San Jose, Calif. (San José Spotlight / Vicente Vera, Pool)

    After struggling for weeks to expand the South Bay’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Santa Clara County officials are now warning that a specific batch of doses shouldn’t be administered because of an increased risk of allergic reactions.

    Santa Clara County received about 21,800 doses of the Moderna Lot 41L20A distributed Jan. 5 and Jan. 12. More than 330,000 doses from the lot were distributed across the state. Now, health officials are pausing vaccines from the lot and warning that some individuals might experience an acute allergic reaction, anaphylaxis, after receiving their shot.

    “To the county’s knowledge, no doses from this lot of vaccine have been administered to anyone in Santa Clara County,” the county’s health department said in a statement.

    State health officials announced Sunday that fewer than 10 people administered vaccines from this lot had a reaction that required medical attention, and that the decision to pause the lot’s administration was “out of an extreme abundance of caution.” The reactions were recorded in several individuals at a large vaccination site in San Diego.

    “Our goal is to provide the COVID vaccine safely, swiftly and equitably,” said California State Epidemiologist Dr. Erica S. Pan.

    Pan said the California Department of Public Health is “recommending that providers use other available vaccine inventory and pause the administration of vaccines from Moderna Lot 041L20A until the investigation by the CDC, FDA, Moderna and the state is complete.”

    County officials have notified health care providers who received doses from this lot, specifically Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, Stanford Health Care and El Camino Health. Health officials said they’re not aware of any unusual adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccinations in Santa Clara County, but paused administration of this lot to comply with the state’s recommendation.

    “We have not administered any vaccine from this lot and have pulled it from our current inventory,” said El Camino Health spokesman Christopher Brown. “We are awaiting additional information from Santa Clara County and the California Department of Public Health. El Camino Health’s community vaccination clinic will proceed as planned tomorrow utilizing Moderna vaccine that is not from this specific lot.”

    Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said the fact that allergic reactions were caught swiftly and the lot pulled is an example of the system working correctly.

    “This is a known complication of the vaccine,” Benjamin said. “The numbers (of reactions) are still very small, but the fact that they came out of one lot, one location, one company means that investigation (into the cause) should be much easier.”

    Meanwhile, Benjamin said, millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines have already been administered with no complications.

    Kaiser Permanente officials told San José Spotlight in a statement that all of the vaccines from the lot in question had been removed from the system’s vaccine supply.

    “At Kaiser Permanente, we have not recorded any severe adverse reactions in patients who received vaccine from this lot,” the statement said. “While all vaccine supply is extremely limited, this situation only affects a relatively small percentage of our supply.”

    Stanford Health Care spokesperson Julie Greicius said Stanford had received 4,000 doses of the lot in question, but none had been used yet.

    “The doses are sequestered until further guidance from our county and state health authorities,” Greicius said.

    State and county officials promised updates as they learned more.

    County officials also announced over the weekend that a new COVID-19 variant has been discovered in Santa Clara County. Scientists do not know how infectious or transmissible the variant is, but it’s become more prevalent since November and has been linked to several large outbreaks in the South Bay.

    As of Jan. 18, the county reported 93,557 COVID-19 cases and 1,076 deaths.

    For common reader questions about Santa Clara County’s vaccine rollout, click here.

    Contact Madelyn Reese at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @MadelynGReese

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