There is a lot of good news about the status of COVID-19 vaccinations. Consider that according to NPR, nearly 32 percent of Americans, or 105 million people, have been fully vaccinated as of May 3, 2021. However, new data shows that there has been tremendous waste when it comes to the vaccine as well.
Kaiser Health News reports that nearly 183,000 doses of the potentially life-saving vaccine have been wasted as of March. And exactly who is responsible for these unused doses may surprise you.
Indeed, national pharmacy retail chains CVS and Walgreens have actually wasted more COVID-19 vaccines than most states all together, according to KHN.
It’s the Pfizer vaccine that accounts for most of the waste, with the Observer noting that at first, vials of the inoculation needed to be frozen. However, as of February, the company submitted new data to the Food and Drug Administration that shows the vaccine can be effectively stored at refrigerator temperatures instead. At that time, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin noted in a statement, “The data submitted may facilitate the handling of our vaccine in pharmacies and provide vaccination centers an even greater flexibility.”
How health officials hope to reduce vaccine waste moving forward
To be fair, as Today reports, most of the vaccines accounted for in the data went to waste early on in the rollout. With more time to perfect the storage and distribution of the vaccines, it’s likely less waste will occur.
But, KHN further notes that the Centers for Disease Control still do not have a firm grasp on how to prevent waste at CVS and Walgreens locations from happening in the future. Still, there is more good news even as we learn that so much waste took place — relatively speaking, the overall waste is very minimal, with over 147 million doses having been administered in the U.S. as of March 30, 2021, according to the KHN report.
And public health officials are working on ways to avoid wasting vaccines, according to the Boston Herald. Unfortunately, recent data also shows an alarming number of people are missing their second shot appointments, leading to more potentially-wasted vaccines. The reasons range from feeling they are sufficiently protected with one dose, and fear of side effects.
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