Zachary Thompson is a busy 10-year-old boy. He likes games, reading, riding his bike and playing with his friends. He participates in Scouts, sports, school choir and plays. But in February 2011, Zachary prepared to do something most fifth graders never do: testify in front of a state legislative committee.
Zachary lives with his family in Monmouth, and his mother Dana takes all three of the kids in for regular immunizations as part of a healthy lifestyle. But she was exasperated when she discovered that some of the vaccines they received were “subpotent” because her clinic stored them improperly. Her children now need to be revaccinated to ensure they are protected against disease. And Zachary is even more dismayed to learn he has to get four additional shots: “Kids know that getting shots means pain,” he says. “I have enough pain in my everyday life without having to get my shots again.”
In 2009, more than 60,000 Oregonians needed to have their immunizations repeated due to inappropriate storage of vaccines by clinics across the state. Vaccine storage refrigerators that are too cold or too warm can render the vaccines useless. The medical errors from wrongly stored vaccine in 2009 cost private and public providers an estimated $9.4 million in unrecoverable costs, plus an additional $500,000 to replace actual vaccines.
Zachary and Dana testified in favor of House Bill 2371, which was passed into law. As a result, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) requires that clinics ensure staff members have no-cost access to education about the safe storage and administration of vaccines. This law also requires clinics that receive vaccines funded by taxpayers to efficiently account for their care of this valuable and expensive product.
Zachary traveled out of the country with a church program, so it was crucial that he got up-to-date on his immunizations. He was excited about his trip, but he was definitely not looking forward to two more clinic visits and four more shots. “I want a peaceful life,” he said, “and getting extra shots is not part of a peaceful life.”