The state Department of Human Services has discovered some vaccines have been stored improperly at health clinics, and is recommending revaccinations for 159 people in Southern Oregon and about 22,000 people in other communities across the state.
Dr. Mel Kohn, public health director for DHS, said in a news release that the vaccines are safe, but they may have lost potency because they were stored at higher-than-recommended temperatures.
The recommendation affects people who were vaccinated at four local clinics operated by Providence Medical Group, including 60 at Doctors Clinic (an internal medicine practice in Medford); 20 at PMG Jacksonville (now closed); 56 at Medford Family Practice; and 23 at the Providence clinic in Shady Cove.
Most of the affected vaccines were for protecting children against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, haemophilus influenzae type B, hepatitis A and B, human papilloma virus, viral influenza and pneumonoccal disease. Some adult vaccines may be affected because all vaccines usually are stored in the same area.
The vaccinations occurred between January 2008 and June 2009, according to Gary Walker, manager of public affairs for Providence Health & Services, Oregon region. Walker said letters were mailed to the affected patients on Monday. Providence will provide new vaccines at no charge, and patients who need new vaccinations will be given top priority for appointments.
Providence has set up a toll-free number for patients who want to schedule a new appointment or get more information. The number is 1-877-503-9620, and it will be staffed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
Walker said the patients affected are only a small portion of all patients who have been vaccinated between January 2008 and June 2009. Patients who have been vaccinated during that time period and do not receive a letter need not take any action, he said.
Jim Sellers, a DHS spokesman, said vaccines stored at warmer-than-recommended temperatures were discovered during one of the routine inspections performed by DHS at clinics that participate in the federal Vaccines for Children program. This immunization program distributes about 840,000 doses of vaccines, valued at about $28 million, to clinics for children who receive Medicaid services or are uninsured.
The recommended storage temperature for vaccines varies from 2 degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit) to 8 degrees Celsius (46.4 degrees Fahrenheit), depending on the specific product.
Since the storage errors were discovered, DHS has asked all 600 clinics that participate in its Vaccines for Children program to submit temperature logs of their refrigeration equipment for review.
Besides the people in Southern Oregon, the revaccination recommendation affects about 7,250 patients at Providence clinics in the Portland area (Sunnyside, Gateway and Milwaukie), Cannon Beach, Seaside and Warrenton; 300 patients in Burns; and 14,000 patients of the Corvallis Clinic in Albany, Corvallis and Philomath.
Providence has more information on its Web site at http://www.providence.org/oregon. Go to the heading for "important vaccine information." The Web site says physicians have assured Providence managers that the new vaccinations will not pose any more risk to patients than the first ones did. The most common side effects are pain at the injection site, redness and swelling.
Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.