At least 15 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been reportedly wasted by the United States since March 1 based on government data, a number that dwarfs previous statistics and has caused concern among experts.
On Tuesday, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that four national pharmacy chains reported more than one million COVID-19 vaccine doses were wasted at each site. The most waste of any pharmacy was reported by Walgreens at nearly 2.6 million doses.
Waste Coronavirus Vaccine Doses
On the other hand, CVS wasted 2.3 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine, Walmart threw away 1.6 million doses, and Rite Aid trashed 1.1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses. Pharmacies, states, and other vaccine providers self-reported the data that they sent to the CDC. There were a small number of states and federal providers that did not report their wastes. However, the reports did not include why the coronavirus vaccine doses were trashed.
Experts said there were several possible reasons why pharmacies and other providers wasted the COVID-19 vaccine doses. These include a cracked vial, an error diluting the vaccine, a freezer malfunction, or more doses in a vial than the demand in the area, CNBC reported.
The majority of the wasted vaccine doses at the pharmacies were thrown away in late 2020 and early 2021. At the time, inoculation programs focused on vaccinating long-term care facility residents and employees rather than a broader range of residents in the country.
Some of the wasted doses have also been dated back to the early days of the vaccine rollout when authorities targeted certain groups of people. Walgreens distributed some of its unused doses in the early stages to the general public, an act that is frowned upon by officials.
Many state officials were forced to trash vaccine doses earlier this year due to the shots expiring before any residents were willing to get inoculated. Georgia's department of health reported in July that the state destroyed more than 110,000 coronavirus vaccine doses, the New York Daily News reported.
Low Percentage of Trashed Doses
However, a spokesperson for the CDC, Kristen Nordlund, said that the percentage of wasted coronavirus vaccine doses was low. The official noted it was due to the cooperation among the federal government, jurisdictions, and vaccine providers to inoculate as many residents as possible while minimizing vaccine wastes.
The 15 million waste vaccine doses accounted for about 3% of the more than 441.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses that have been delivered across the United States. Nordlund said that expanded accessibility of the coronavirus vaccine meant that health care providers must remain vigilant to avoid neglecting eligible residents who are present at vaccine clinics.
The CDC reported that more than 370.2 million coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered across the country so far. Data showed that at least 72% of Americans eligible to receive the vaccines are at least partially vaccinated against the virus. Fully vaccinated residents accounted for about 62% of the entire population in the country, The Hill reported.