According to a report the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared with NBC News, up to 82.1 million doses of COVID vaccines may have been discarded between December 2020 when vaccinations first began to mid-May 2022.
The CDC noted that this figure would amount to about 11% of the overall vaccine supply to pharmacies to date that went unused.
Of the number of lost vaccinations, two companies accounted for a quarter of the losses: Wal-Mart and CVS. Between them, Walmart reportedly threw away about 10 million doses out of 44.6 million that it has received to date. CVS discarded about 11.8 million doses.
Other companies that reported wasted COVID vaccines include Health Mart, DaVita, Rite Aid, Publix and Costco.
“We often have to open a multidose vial at the end of the day for a single walk-in,” CVS told the outlet in a statement. “Those vials have a very limited shelf life, which unfortunately means unused vaccines will be disposed of. The same challenge is faced by others administering vaccinations.”
“The latest CDC guidance advises that providing COVID-19 vaccinations should be prioritized, even if it leads to vaccine waste,” CVS went onto say.
CV confirmed that they threw out approximately 13% of the 89.9 million doses it acquired, according to the report. Walmart had wasted 10 million of its 44.6 million vaccines, and Walgreens tossed 8.3 million of its 79.6 million doses, the report said.
At the state level, Oklahoma and Alaska were listed as the top two states to waste vaccines, with the former wasting 28% of its 4 million doses and the latter tossing out 27% of its 1 million doses.
“It’s a tremendous loss to pandemic control — especially in the context of millions of people around the world who haven’t even been able to get a first dose,” said Dr. Sheela Shenoi, an infectious disease expert at the Yale School of Medicine.
The CDC said it is working with manufacturers on smaller, single-dose vials for the Covid vaccines to reduce waste.
“Vaccine utilization was very high in the early months of the vaccination campaign and has decreased in recent months; however, our commitment to providing vaccine, and now boosters, to anyone who wants one remains unchanged,” agency spokesperson Kate Grusich said in an email.
Pfizer, which manufactures one of the three vaccines authorized in the United States, said it designed its packaging and storage around the needs of its global distribution network.
“We are continuously enhancing the shelf-life, handling and storage requirements of the vaccine to support handling and minimize the number that go unused,” the company said in a statement.
Another manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, said that in April, the Food and Drug Administration extended the shelf life of its vaccine for up to 11 months in refrigerated storage.
“We continue to work with the U.S. government and health authorities to limit waste of expiring doses and ensure availability of our vaccine,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: WASHINGTON EXAMINER