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U.S. Forced to Toss Millions of Expired Doses of COVID19 While Other Countries Are Left Wanting

U.S. Forced to Toss Millions of Expired Doses of COVID19 While Other Countries Are Left Wanting

COVID vaccine distirbution

The United States is wasting millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses even as shortages plague many parts of the world.

A separate investigation found 1 million doses were discarded in 10 states between December and July. Thousands of doses are reportedly wasted each day in Wisconsin. In Alabama, more than 65,000 doses have been tossed; in Tennessee, it’s almost 200,000. At least 15 million vaccine doses were discarded in the U.S. between March and September, according to one analysis of CDC data.

J&J vaccine to receive authorization
[Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP via Getty Images]
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as states just donating their unused vaccines. The doses already distributed to states can’t be repurposed internationally because of bureaucratic and safety concerns around storing the vaccines correctly. President Joe Biden has vowed to vaccinate 70% of the world in the next year, and has committed to donating several million doses for use abroad. But in the meantime, many countries are struggling to provide shots to the most vulnerable and those working on the frontlines of the pandemic, while Americans refuse the immunizations.

There are multiple reasons why doses have been wasted. Sometimes a vial is cracked or doesn’t contain as many doses as promised; sometimes needles malfunction; freezers break down or the power goes out. Frequently, people don’t show up for appointments, and the dose set aside for them in a vial isn’t used.

The wasted doses represent a small fraction of the number of shots administered in these states. In Louisiana, for instance, 4.4 million doses have been given out successfully. But the news comes as millions of people around the world wait for their first doses. Only 1% of the populations of low-income countries had received first shots as of July, compared with more than half of those living in a handful of high-income countries.

Many of the discarded doses came from pharmacies. In May, two pharmacy chains had wasted more doses than US states, territories, and federal agencies combined, for almost three-quarters of tossed doses. Now, at least 7.6 million discarded doses come from four major pharmacies: Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, and Rite Aid.

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And states continue to be forced to toss unused shots. Louisiana has thrown out 224,000 unused doses of the Covid vaccines – a rate that has almost tripled since the end of July, even as a deadly fourth wave of the virus gripped the state. Some of the lost doses came from opening and not finishing vials, but more than 20,000 shots simply expired.



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