MANAHAWKIN, New Jersey - Officials from the New Jersey Department of Health have announced that approximately 900 children who participated in a free or low-cost vaccine program in Ocean County may need to be revaccinated because the vaccines they received may not have been properly refrigerated.
The children participated in the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, a federally-funded, state-operated program that provides 1.6 million free or low-cost vaccines to eligible low-income children at more than 1,000 medical offices around the state each year.
The Department of Health is mailing letters to impacted families, whose children were vaccinated at Southern Ocean Pediatrics and Family Medicine in Manahawkin, which is the medical office of Dr. Michael Bleiman.
The department suspended shipment of VFC vaccine to Dr. Bleiman on July 28, 2016, when, during a routine compliance visit, problems with refrigeration temperatures were discovered.
Late Monday afternoon, the state filed a complaint with the State Board of Medical Examiners alleging gross negligence, professional misconduct and other violations.
Vaccines that have not been properly refrigerated under the recommendation of the manufacturer may be less effective, and children who receive these vaccines might not be fully protected against vaccine-preventable diseases.
Experts say receiving improperly-stored vaccines is not a danger to the health of the recipient, but according to CDC guidelines, exposure to temperatures outside the manufacturer's recommended range can make vaccines less effective at preventing disease.
Parents may want to discuss revaccination with a health care provider. The vaccines the children received include measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis A & B, rotavirus, DTaP/Tdap, Hib, pneumococcal, polio, meningococcal and HPV.
As part of an investigation, the VFC program determined that the temperature problems may have occurred as early as November 2014. The children who should be evaluated for revaccination were vaccinated between November 2014 and July 28, 2016.
Families enrolled in Medicaid Managed Care Organizations should contact their health plan for assistance in providing an in-network provider. Parents or guardians of uninsured children can contact Federally Qualified Health Centers in the area, including the Center for Health Education, Medicine and Dentistry (CHEMED) in Lakewood and Ocean Health Initiatives in Lakewood.
In addition, Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin, which is part of Hackensack Meridian Health, will also be setting up a hotline to help families evaluate the need for revaccination.