About 900 children may have received ineffective vaccines for chickenpox, rubella, mumps, measles and other diseases through a free or low-cost vaccine program in Ocean County and may need to be revaccinated.
The state Department of Health issued a warning Monday that vaccines given to children at Southern Ocean Pediatrics and Family Medicine in Manahawkin were not stored properly at the right temperatures, which possibly reduced their effectiveness.
Children at risk were vaccinated at the Manahawkin provider through the Vaccines for Children, a federally funded, state-operated program that provides 1.6 million free or low-cost vaccines to eligible low-income children in New Jersey.
The state Department of Health said families can call the NJ Health Hotline at 1-866-448-2432 for questions related to this incident.
Officials said the health department is mailing letters to affected families whose children were vaccinated at the Southern Ocean Pediatrics practice under Dr. Michael Bleiman.
The Department of Health suspended shipment of Vaccines for Children vaccines to Bleiman on July 28, when, during a routine compliance visit, problems with refrigeration temperatures were discovered, officials said.
The state filed a complaint Monday with the State Board of Medical Examiners alleging gross negligence, professional misconduct and other violations by Bleiman.
Through an investigation into Bleiman’s practice and the refrigeration storage issue, officials said temperature problems may have occurred as early as November 2014.
Children who should be evaluated for revaccination were vaccinated between November 2014 and July 28, 2016.
Vaccines given to children during that time included measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis A and B, rotavirus, DTaP/Tdap, Hib, pneumococcal, polio, meningococcal and HPV.
The possible ineffective vaccines do not pose any health dangers to the children who received them, but health officials said those children might not be fully protected against vaccine-preventable diseases.
The state Department of Health made referrals to and is working with the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners, the Medicaid Fraud Division in the Office of the State Comptroller, and the Medicaid program in the state Department of Human Services.
Families enrolled in Medicaid Managed Care Organizations should contact their health plan for assistance in providing an in-network provider, health officials said. Parents or guardians of uninsured children can contact Federally Qualified Health Centers in the area, including the Center for Health Education, Medicine & Dentistry (CHEMED) in Lakewood and Ocean Health Initiatives in Lakewood.
Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin, which is part of Hackensack Meridian Health, will be setting up a hotline to help families evaluate the need for revaccination.