Prepared Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine syringes sit on a table before being administered to patients at a middle school in Wheeling, Illinois, on June 11, 2021. (Nam Y. Huh / AP)
By Jack Davis March 6, 2022 at 4:04pm
Coronavirus vaccines that were paid for to go into the arms of Americans are going down the drain — or into a landfill — now that many places in America have more doses than people who want them.
About 9.5 percent of the doses shipped from the federal government have been wasted, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That amounts to about 65 million doses, according to the Associated Press.
The numbers vary by state, with nearly 1.5 million doses in Michigan, 1.45 million in North Carolina, 1 million in Illinois and almost 725,000 doses in Washington going to waste.
An AP estimate puts California’s level of wasted doses at 1.4 million.
As the American market sags, drug companies are looking abroad. Officials said it is impractical to send unused vaccine doses abroad.
“Pivoting to what’s happening now, you have much more production and distribution to low-income countries,” said Dr. Joseph Bresee, who directs the COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Program at the Task Force for Global Health in Decatur, Georgia.
“The issue of some stockpiles in the U.S., Germany and Japan, that are not redistributed to sub-Saharan Africa, it’s less of an acute problem now because vaccine production and distribution is in high-gear right now serving those low-income countries.”
Some said waste is just part of the business.
Claire Hannan, executive director at the Association of Immunization Managers, said waste “just can’t be an issue.”
Did the federal government waste too much money on the vaccine?
“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.”
“Given what we’ve seen in terms of the number of people still unvaccinated, I do think finding any way to get the shot in arms, even at the expense of potential wastage, is still important,” said Katie Greene, an assistant research director at the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy.
As demand for COVID-19 vaccines collapses in many areas of the U.S., states are scrambling to use stockpiles of doses before they expire. Millions of doses have already gone to waste. https://t.co/0K8L23tQfJ
— The Associated Press (@AP) March 3, 2022
As the pandemic hits a lull, Santa Cruz County in California has found that of its 10 COVID-19 deaths in the peak wave of the omicron variant, nine were vaccinated, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
“We’ve seen some chinks in the armor of vaccines that we didn’t see before,” Santa Cruz County Deputy Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci said. “As good as the vaccines are, they’re not 100 percent protection.”
“When I first saw that, I thought, ‘Oh no, what’s going on here?’” he said.
Dr. John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, said one issue may be the vast numbers infected with omicron.
“There were more cases at the peak of omicron than with the peak of delta plus the peak of the previous year and then some,” Swartzberg said.