About 6,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine were potentially spoiled at the Soka University Super POD vaccination site in Aliso Viejo Wednesday due to a malfunctioning refrigerator.
“It's in that range,’ Orange County CEO Frank Kim said of the number of doses potentially spoiled. “We don't have an exact number yet.” It's still possible the vaccines could be used, Kim said.
The Pfizer vaccine must be put in a special deep freezer, and then is transferred to a refrigerator to begin thawing. The next step is to mix it and let it fully thaw at room temperature before inoculations can begin. The vaccine must be used within six hours of being thawed to room temperature.
“We're in discussions with the manufacturer to see what can be done with the vaccine,” Kim said. Kim emphasized that none of the vaccines were used and that other doses were brought in so appointments made for Wednesday would not be affected.
The pharmacists who arrived at work at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday to begin the process of preparing the vaccines noticed the refrigerator had malfunctioned, Kim said. Aside from the disappointment with the potentially spoiled doses, the county on Wednesday received good news in a continued downward trend in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
The Orange County Health Care Agency reported 454 new cases of COVID- 19, raising the cumulative total to 240,220. “It's all moving in the right direction,” Kim said of the case and hospitalization rates. “But I'll wait a week to see if there are Super Bowl issues... We'll see how the next week looks.”
Officials are concerned about a bump up in cases due to Super Bowl gatherings last Sunday. The county also logged 35 more fatalities, raising the death toll to 3,451. The death reports are staggered because they come from a variety of sources and are not always logged immediately.
January was the deadliest month for COVID-19 in Orange County with 893 fatalities. In December, the death toll stands at 853. That means about half of the county's fatalities since its first death on March 19 happened in December and January.
Of the deaths logged Wednesday, seven were skilled nursing facility residents, raising the total to 879 since the pandemic began. Three were assisted living facility residents, raising that total to 380.
The adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 people dropped from 39 last Tuesday to 29.7 this week, and the test positivity rate on a seven-day average, with a seven-day lag, dropped from 10.9% last week to 9.4%.
The county's Health Equity Quartile Positivity Rate, which measures the cases in highly affected, needier parts of the county, declined from 13.9% last week to 12.4%. The numbers for the state's color-coded tier framework are updated on Tuesdays.
To move to the less-restrictive red tier from the top purple tier in the state's coronavirus regulatory system, the county has to improve to 4 to 7 new daily cases per 100,000 and a 5% to 8% positivity rate with a health equity quartile at 5.3% to 8%.
The number of coronavirus patients in county hospitals decreased from 1,058 on Tuesday to 1,009 on Wednesday, and the number of patients in intensive care decreased from 324 to 310, according to the OCHCA.
The county's state-adjusted ICU bed availability remains at zero, and the unadjusted figure increased from 10.2% Tuesday to 12.1% Wednesday. The state created the adjusted metric to reflect the difference in beds available for COVID-19 patients and non-coronavirus patients.
The OCHCA also reported 19,850 tests Wednesday, bringing the total to 2,817,697.