MISSION, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas hospital had to throw away 570 doses of a coronavirus vaccine because of a refrigeration mistake, officials say.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital said in a news release that city and county health officials transferred the doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the hospital on Wednesday. The hospital then put them in a freezer, not realizing they were thawed. Confusion arose because most doses are shipped frozen, but the health department had received this batch in a refrigerated state.

The hospital reached out to Johnson & Johnson for guidance and was instructed that the doses would have to be discarded.

LMH Health President & CEO Russ Johnson described what happened as a “heart wrenching situation for our hospital." He said the hospital is reviewing processes aimed at preventing vaccine waste to prevent future errors. Health officials also have requested replacement doses and are working to reschedule appointments.

Meanwhile, it isn't clear whether the statewide state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic will remain in effect past March 31, when it is due to expire. The Republican-controlled Legislature would have to extend it, and some GOP leaders want to let it and any remaining restrictions expire with new cases down.

Gov. Laura Kelly said at a call Friday with local officials that there was a 52% drop in cases and 35% decline in hospitalizations over the past two weeks.

“It has been a long time, but it is slowly starting to get better and be able to open up and live a little bit more normally as we go forward here,” she said.

She said that new stimulus money is headed to the state and that the vaccine rollout is gaining momentum again after a winter storm temporarily disrupted the process.

State data shows that 18.1% of residents have been vaccinated with at least one dose, and the number could rise rapidly after President Joe Biden vowed Thursday to make all adult Americans eligible for vaccinations by May 1.

“Governor Kelly has said all along that available doses are the most significant constraint impacting Kansas’ ability to vaccinate its population,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. “If the federal supply increases as President Biden has indicated, we will gladly adjust our timetable so that vaccines will be available across the state by May 1st.”

The state recorded 519 new confirmed COVID-19 cases from Wednesday to Friday, raising the its pandemic total to 297,748. Kansas' coronavirus death toll actually shrank from 4,851 to 4,824 following a review of death certificates that determined COVID-19 didn't contribute to some fatalities, said health department spokeswoman Kristi Zears.

In the Topeka area, Shawnee County Commissioners removed all hours restrictions on bars, restaurants and nightclubs.

Commissioner Aaron Mays sought to go further and automatically rescind all health orders and replace them with recommendations, rather than requirements, when the state moves to the next vaccination phase. That is expected to happen next month. But his amendment failed, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

“We are doing well, almost to the point where we can declare we are out of the woods," he said, noting that vaccines are making a different.

But Dr. Lee Norman, the head of the state health department, said earlier this week that the vaccination rate among prison staff was a concern. The staff and inmates are part of the current vaccination phase because of widespread outbreaks that have infected thousands.

The death Tuesday of an inmate at the Winfield Correctional Facility pushed the state's death toll among inmates and staff to 21.


Hanna reported from Topeka.