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Manuel Mendoza, 70 years old, displays his vaccination card from El Centro Regional Medical Center’s mass COVID vaccination event at the Imperial Valley Mall on Monday morning, Jan. 18. On close inspection, one can see that his card has a sticker from the recalled lot of Moderna vaccine pulled due to allergic reactions during a drive-through clinic at Petco Park in San Diego last week. However, there is also a handwritten correction on the sticker, indicating a new lot number. ECRMC and county officials say no one in Imperial County received any of the recalled Moderna vaccine; it was replaced before the clinics started. | CAMILO GARCIA JR. PHOTO

County: Bad Batch of Moderna Vaccine Pulled Before Clinics Got Going

All 900 doses of COVID vaccine that had been earmarked for Imperial Valley’s seniors and were to be administered as part of two mass vaccination clinics were part of the lot of Moderna vaccine recalled by the state.

A few of the last seniors who received their doses of COVID vaccine could be seen leaving the Imperial Valley Mall Food Court area where El Centro Regional Medical Center staged its mass vaccination clinic on Monday morning, Jan. 18. | CAMILO GARCIA JR. PHOTO

Fortunately, said Imperial County Public Health Director Janette Angulo, the recalled lot was caught late Sunday, Jan. 17, and new doses of vaccine the county had available were delivered to the Imperial Valley Mall in El Centro and the Gateway Church in Brawley by 5 a.m. Monday, Jan. 18, literally hours before the clinics were to get started.

“We could not let our seniors be vaccinated with that recalled (lot),” Angulo said in a telephone interview with the Calexico Chronicle on Jan. 18.

The delivery of the new doses, which were primarily Pfizer-BioNTech doses, with some good Moderna doses, was coordinated by Imperial County Emergency Medical Services Agency Chris Herring, Angulo said.

El Centro Regional Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Dr. Adolphe Edward confirmed Monday afternoon that none of the old lot was used on the 600 seniors seen at the hospital’s vaccination event at the mall.

“Chris Herring, working (with) Danny (Tirado), our pharmacist, did change plans at 11:30 p.m. The old lot was never used,” Edward wrote in an email. He added the new vaccine was delivered at 4:30 a.m.

On Sunday, state Epidemiologist Dr. Erica S. Pan sent out an advisory to public health departments and providers recommending a “pause” in using Moderna vaccine from the lot No. 41L20A due to “a higher-than-usual number of possible allergic reactions.”

Apparently, according to published reports, the allergic reactions happened around a mass drive-through clinic at Petco Park in San Diego that started last week. Six healthcare workers had allergic reactions, prompting officials to consider the reactions a large-enough cluster to “pause” the use of the doses.

Angulo said Monday the Public Health Department is now awaiting further instructions from the state and Moderna on whether to discard the doses or return to the manufacturer.

No other incidents have been reported with the Moderna lot, which was distributed to some 287 medical providers across the state, according to the state Public Health advisory. The batch arrived in California between Jan. 5 and Jan. 12.

Angulo said the bad batch of Moderna was shipped directly to El Centro Regional and Pioneers, and Imperial County Public Health received some separately.

While the 600 doses from the clinics were isolated, that was part of a larger total of 1,700 doses of affected Moderna vaccine in Imperial County from that lot number.

The batches were all part of second doses distributed to the county that all involved — county Public Health and the two providers, ECRMC and Pioneers — decided would be reallocated to be used as first doses to “jump start” the vaccinations of those age 65 and older while the county awaited the arrival of 2,000 new doses expected this week. Those 2,000 also will be Moderna-manufactured vaccine.

A photograph taken by a Calexico Chronicle staffer shows a man who was vaccinated at the El Centro Regional event on Monday morning displaying his vaccination card, which has a sticker affixed to it that reads: Moderna 041L20A. On closer inspection, however, one can see a handwritten numeral 2 over the numeral 1 in the lot number.

Dr. Edward explained:

“Because we had already made stickers for the lot, we had to make changes. So, we made hand changes to the sticker. At no time did we use the old lot, and everyone got the right vaccine. That is important for all to know. And their stickers reflects 42L20A,” Edward wrote in his email to the Chronicle.

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