Most U.S. states are desperately trying to put their vaccine stockpiles to use before they expire and go to waste like million of vials already have.
At a Glance
- Millions of COVID vaccine bottles have expired, and more will follow.
- As states report fewer infections, the demand for the shot is decreasing.
- Some medical practices are shuffling their vaccine inventories in hopes of using more vials.
The CDC is Reporting Major Covid Vaccine ‘Wastage’
According to the Associated Press, state health departments recorded that the massive amount of waste has been due to expired bottles, multi-dose vials that weren’t completely used, and improperly stored or broken bottles.
Between Michigan, North Carolina, Illinois, and Washington alone, clinics have thrown away nearly 4 million vials.
Even in California, which is one the most vaccinated states in the country, 1.4 million doses are no longer safe for use. Providers are currently holding on to every bottle until they reach their expiration date. But in most cases, the vaccines will go in the trash.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that around 9.5% of the 687 distributed doses have gone to waste since December 2020. That number equates to nearly 65 million.
It isn’t uncommon for vaccine stockpiles to expire during massive inoculation campaigns. Because it’s hard to gauge supply and demand, states usually order more than they can use to ensure they have enough for everyone. But short shelf lives usually cause issues.
However, the CDC expected more people to line up for the COVID vaccine. Before the major suppliers had produced enough for the country, people were eagerly awaiting their turn to get in line. But not long after vials were widely available, demand dropped.
Why Vaccine Stockpiles are Going to Waste
The reason so many vaccines are going to waste is that the number of reported COVID infections is dropping. The CDC announced on Thursday that 90% of U.S. citizens live in areas with low to moderate infection risk. So most governments have relaxed their health protocols. Last week, that number was only 70%.
Only around 70,000 people a day got their first shot last week, which is the lowest the CDC has recorded since the vaccines were available. In total, about 76% of the U.S. population had at least one shot. And 65% are considered fully vaccinated.
To curb “wastage,” health officials are sharing unused vials through a “matchmaker” program, meaning overstocked offices send batches to understocked locations. So far, states shave shuffled hundreds of thousands of doses.
However, some officials are telling doctors not to worry about waste. Because at this point, it’s inevitable.
“We tell this to providers, but the most important thing is getting people vaccinated. And that’s hard when the demand goes down. You don’t have constant flow,” she said. “But that’s just a necessary evil I guess.”