Vaccine waste could increase in the coming weeks as officials shift tactics to inoculate harder-to-reach populations, public health experts say.
“I think we are getting to a place where, to continue to be successful with vaccination, we’re going to have to tolerate some waste,” said Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. People unwilling to travel to a mass-vaccination site might go to a primary care physician or smaller rural pharmacy that might not be able to use every dose in an open vial, he said.
Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, said concerns about waste should not trump getting shots into arms.
“If someone’s there, you need to vaccinate them,” she said. “In our efforts not to waste a dose, we may be missing opportunities to vaccinate because we don’t have 15 people lined up or 10 people lined up.”
CDC Numbers Don’t Match State Data
The federal government collects information about vaccine waste through federal systems called VTrckS, which manages ordering and shipments, and Tiberius, a platform run by the Department of Health and Human Services that monitors distribution. VTrckS can exchange data with state and local immunization registries that track who has received a shot, but some states rely on manual data entry, Hannan said.
The 15 states not included in the CDC’s data are Alaska, California, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas. The District of Columbia is also missing.
Of those jurisdictions, 11 provided data to KHN: Alaska, Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and D.C.
Most of those reported minimal waste to KHN: Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and D.C. together registered just 1,090 wasted doses.
In others, the numbers are more significant. On March 19, the Maryland Department of Health said it knew of 3,175 wasted doses.
Texas had the most wasted doses of any state in either the CDC’s data or the data states provided to KHN. Its records showed 9,229 wasted doses as of March 26, putting it third in overall waste behind CVS and Walgreens.