Did a Truck Carrying Moderna Vaccine Crash? And Did the Pentagon Handle the Recovery?

A truck carrying Moderna vaccines crashed near Morgantown, W.Va., on Aug. 27. Photo: West Virginia 511
A truck carrying Moderna vaccines crashed near Morgantown, W.Va., on Aug. 27. Photo: West Virginia 511

Did the U.S. military take over the site where a truck carrying coronavirus vaccines crashed in Morgantown, West Virginia? That’s what a recent viral social media post said.

The viral tweet, also shared across other social media platforms, said that “near Morgantown, WV, a Moderna shipment truck crashed, hazmat dispatched, airspace shut down and now apparently Emergency Response is claiming the Department of Defense took it over.”

Moderna is a company that produces one of the main vaccines being used in the United States to combat the coronavirus.

So what happened just past midnight on Aug. 27 on a stretch of Interstate 79 in West Virginia? 

In this June 14, 2021, file photo, a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko

We checked with the agencies that were on the scene, as well as federal officials responsible for overseeing shipments. We found that there was indeed a crash involving a shipment of Moderna vaccines, but that the accident response was handled by local officials.

In a press release, the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that a tractor-trailer carrying Moderna vaccines crashed along Interstate 79. A local hazmat squad was dispatched to the scene to clean up 50 gallons of antifreeze and oil that had leaked from the vehicle, the press release said. 

“A truck carrying 1.2 million doses of Moderna vaccine destined for Ghana had an accident on the way to Dulles airport” outside Washington, D.C., the federal Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement to PolitiFact. “We understand the driver was taken to hospital but has since been discharged.”

HHS added that COVAX, an international consortium to share vaccines to nations across the world, and its partner agencies “are working closely with the U.S. government to ensure disruptions to shipments of life-saving vaccines are as minimal as possible.”

It was not immediately clear whether the vaccines in the shipment were saved or lost.

So what about the airspace being shut down?

One local news outlet reported that a member of the hazardous-material team responding to the crash told them the airspace had been shut down. However, we could not confirm that. Monongalia County Emergency Management Director Jim Smith told PolitiFact that the airspace was never shut down. 

What about the Defense Department taking over the clean up process? 

The Pentagon does have a hand in distributing federal coronavirus vaccines, through the Countermeasures Acceleration Group, a collaboration between the Pentagon, HHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

However, the Defense Department was never a part of the cleanup operation and was never on the scene of the crash, Smith said.

Our ruling

Social media posts said that “near Morgantown, WV, a Moderna shipment truck crashed, hazmat dispatched, airspace shut down and now apparently Emergency Response is claiming the Department of Defense took it over.”

A truck carrying Moderna vaccines did crash near Morgantown, and a local hazmat crew was called to clean up debris. 

However, local emergency management agencies said that the airspace was not shut down and that the Defense Department never dispatched officials to the site of the crash. It was handled exclusively by local agencies, officials said.

We rate the statement Half True.

This article was originally published by Politifact.

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