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Vaccine Tracker: Looking at the issue of wasting vaccine doses.

Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 5:54 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - On this edition of the Vaccine Tracker we’re taking a look at a recent story just put out this week saying that Walgreens and CVS are responsible for over 128,000 wasted doses from the start of the vaccine process going to late March.

https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/cvs-walgreens-have-wasted-more-covid-vaccine-doses-most-states-n1266032

In the story, the CDC cites 182,874 doses were wasted as of late March 2021. Of that total, CVS is said to account for half of those and Walgreens accounts for 21%. That’s around 128,500 doses wasted. I reached out to CVS to learn more about the wasted doses and looking for an explanation. Here is what I was provided:

“We take every precaution to minimize COVID-19 vaccine waste and follow all CDC and manufacturer guidelines with regard to proper storage, transport and administration.

Nearly all of our reported waste occurred within the long-term care facility program that began last December due to issues with transportation restrictions, limitations on redirecting unused doses, and other factors. Despite the inherent challenges, our teams were able to limit waste to approximately one dose per onsite vaccination clinic.

Vaccine waste in our retail stores is extremely limited, accounting for less than 0.1% of vaccine doses we’ve administered at retail, so less than 1 in 1000 doses have been wasted.”

So, most of their wasted doses are attributed to their efforts in long-term care facilities (LTC). The reasons for the waste are rather vague but do hint at the company working through logistical issues early in the vaccine rollout.

What about local health departments and their management of waste? I spoke with the Berrien County Health Department and they say with dropping demand, vaccine waste is likely inevitable.

“In the beginning parts of our vaccination rollout we were doing vaccines strictly by appointment only, which really allowed us to be very judicious with each and every dose and avoid any waste of those precious vaccine doses. Now that we are in a spot in our vaccine rollout where demand is lower and supply is plentiful we really are able to have a couple extra doses leftover at the end of the day,” Gillian Conrad, Communications Manager at BCHD says.

Also, as BCHD focuses on communities that are vaccine hesitant or have logistical issues getting the vaccine, they say that could also lead to some waste.

“As we are doing deeper outreach into our neighborhoods, we believe that it is important to vaccinate everybody that is present and there willing to get their vaccine that day,” Conrad adds. “We do not want to miss an opportunity to give someone their vaccine just because we don’t have enough people lined up to use every single dose in that vial.”

BCHD adds at their site they have only wasted 20 doses and did not waste the first dose until April 2021. They clearly have made a great effort to avoid waste in the county.

We’ll continue to keep an eye on the vaccination rollout, and I want to hear from you. Email me at zach.horner@wndu.com or find me on Facebook and send a message if you have an issue or idea of something we can dig into on the Vaccine Tracker.

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