The Covid-19 vaccine is something that so many of us are wanting to get. We want life to start to look a little normal again, whatever that might be. Most states have the same type of tiered guidelines to follow, starting with medical workers and the elderly. They work down the list, some state prioritizing teachers so kids can return to school, frontline workers to protect our most vulnerable populations, and so on. Getting vaccinated with a leftover “waste” dose is happening all around the country though.
What was widely reported is how the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines need to be in a deep freeze and once removed from this super cold refrigerator it has to be used within 6 hours or it has to be thrown away and it can’t be re-refrigerated. This leaves the question, what happens to those vaccines that don’t get used? Remember the news story of the people stuck on the side of the road in a snowstorm with vaccines about ready to expire and offered them to people also stuck in the snow storm so they wouldn’t be wasted? This is exactly what happens all over the country basically, just minus the snow. After the year my family had with my husband’s open heart surgery and then blood cancer diagnosis I was hopeful that a vaccine would be available to high risk patients, in my state it wasn’t though and he didn’t meet the age criteria. This is why I decided to investigate what happens to those waste doses.
After hearing from friends in other parts of the country about the “waste” doses and how clinics near them dealt with them, I decided to look into clinics in my own area.
Walgreens, Walmart and Kroger pharmacies were the places here, outside of hospitals and county health vaccines clinics, that were administering the vaccines. At the time our vaccine tier was for people age 70+, frontline workers, teachers, etc.
While researching these “waste” doses I learned they occur several ways. 1. They only schedule as many appointments as they have doses, so if someone doesn’t show up, that leaves an extra dose at the end of the day. 2. One of the pharmacists who works at Walgreens and administers Moderna vaccine told that they say the vial of vaccine has 10 doses in it, but they can actually get 11 doses out of the vial. So that means for every 10 vaccines they give in a day that equals one extra “waste” dose.
That made me go WHOA. So hopefully these doses are reaching peoples arms. I started to go inquire about this. I stopped at my local Kroger pharmacy and asked them about the end of the day waste doses. The women told me that Kroger told them they can only be given to people who are 70+. I asked, if the 70+ are able to freely book their appointments, how many people are left trying to get a waste one in that age range? What happens if you don’t have anyone 70+ standing around at the end of the day waiting? She wouldn’t answer and just said that Krogers protocol is that it is only 70+. This to me meant that some had gone to waste. Multiply that by however many Kroger pharmacies there are and I wonder how many went to waste?
Next I went and talked to Walmart pharmacy and they told me the same thing. I was kind of surprised that they wouldn’t just put them in an arm rather than let them go to waste.
Next I went to several different Walgreens. One Walgreens has a hand written list that they said they call when they have waste doses. They have people’s birthdays written with their names and phone numbers on the list and call based on age. I asked if that worked well and they said that it usually does, it’s the end of the day, so they call as many people as they have time and try to get them down there before the vaccine expires. Most times this means it is less than an hour to get the waste dose in an arm before it expires. Other Walgreens allow a handful of people to wait in the store to see if there are waste doses at the end of the day and if there are they then vaccinate them, prioritizing them by age.
It only took a couple days of waiting. The first day my husband was able to get one, but there wasn’t enough left for me. The second day I went there were 7 waste doses left and only 5 of us waiting for a waste dose. That means there were 2 left. I asked what happens if no one is here waiting. She told me they try to reach people, but they have a hard time being able to call people and get them physically in the building in time before the vaccine expires. I share this info because if you have households you know of that fall in a high risk category for covid, but don’t meet your state qualifications (which is so many Americans), tell them to inquire about the waste doses at their local clinics and pharmacies.
This seems like such a flawed system to me. NO vaccine should be wasted. I think part of the problem is every county seems to have different rules and protocols how the vaccines are organized and done. I write this because I feel like if more people inquire about this and care about doses being wasted then maybe something can be organized to make sure EVERY dose gets in an arm.
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