- New CDC data shows CVS and Walgreens were responsible for around 70% of US COVID-19 vaccine wastage.
- The data suggests that the two companies wasted more doses than the combined total of most states.
- CVS cited issues with transportation restrictions and limitations on redirecting unused doses as reasons for vaccine wastage.
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Thousands of COVID-19 vaccine doses are going to waste according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the biggest culprits being CVS and Walgreens.
Government data seen by Kaiser Health News noted that as of late March, 182,874 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been wasted. And the two national pharmaceutical chains, which were entrusted with the vaccine rollout in December, were responsible for around 70% of the total wastage, or nearly 128,500 wasted jabs.
Of this number, CVS wasted nearly half of the unusable vaccine doses, while Walgreen’s wastage numbers accounted for around 21% of the total.
The data, which was obtained by KHN from public records requests to the CDC and states, US territories, and federal agencies, indicated that the chains had wasted more COVID-19 vaccine doses than most states combined since the start of the vaccine rollout.
The Pfizer vaccine, which was the first vaccine deployed for emergency use in the US, was the most-wasted vaccine, making up 60% of the shots that were thrown away.
CVS, Walgreens, and the CDC did not immediately reply to Insider’s request for comment. But in a statement to KHN, CVS spokesperson Michael DeAngelis said doses were wasted due to “issues with transportation restrictions, limitations on redirecting unused doses, and other factors.”
CVS and Walgreens were earlier criticized for a slow vaccine rollout to long-term care residents in nursing homes. CBS reported doctors were crying foul and saying that delays and mismanagement on the part of these pharmacy retailers led to the vaccine reaching nursing homes and long-term care facilities over a month behind schedule.
Meanwhile, Walgreens spokesperson Kris Lathan told KHN that its vaccine wastage amounted to less than 0.5% of vaccines the company administered through March 29, adding that the company had administered three million shots in long-term care facilities and some five million shots through the government’s retail pharmacy vaccine rollout.
“Our goal has always been ensuring every dose of vaccine is used,” Lathan said to KHN. She noted that before a system of scheduled appointments was put in place, Walgreens based the doses it needed on the number of registrations it received, which “minimized excess and reduced over-estimations.”
KHN also spoke to CDC spokesperson Kate Fowlie, who said that because the pharmacy retailers had been given the responsibility of administering such a large number of doses, it was unsurprising that they would have contributed to a higher percentage of the overall wastage.
“Though every effort is made to reduce the volume of wastage in a vaccination program, sometimes it’s necessary to identify doses as ‘waste’ to ensure anyone wanting a vaccine can receive it, as well as to ensure patient safety and vaccine effectiveness,” Fowlie said to KHN, adding that the CDC is training staff members on how to reduce the waste of vaccine doses wherever possible.
According to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker, 247 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been given so far. An NPR report on April 18 said…