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CVS, Walmart and more have thrown out 82M COVID vaccine doses

KRLD Radio Dallas logo KRLD Radio Dallas 6/6/2022 Stephanie Raymond
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More than 82 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been thrown away in the United States since the shots became available to the public.

According to a report by NBC News, 82.1 million doses -- just over 11% of what was distributed by the government -- were discarded from December 2020 through mid-May 2022.

"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," Dr. Sheela Shenoi, an infectious disease expert at the Yale School of Medicine, told the network.

Retail pharmacies wasted the largest number of doses, and CVS and Walmart alone were responsible for over a quarter of the doses thrown away, according to the report.

CVS discarded nearly 11.8 million doses, or about 13% of the total amount it received, while Walmart wasted around 10 million doses, almost 23% of what it received. Walgreens was close behind with roughly 8.3 million doses discarded, or about 10.5%, the report shows.

Five other pharmacies or dialysis centers -- Health Mart, DaVita, Rite Aid, Publix and Costco -- wasted fewer overall doses, but a higher percentage of their total share, according to the report.

The report also indicates that the most doses were wasted in Oklahoma, which tossed 28% of its nearly 4 million doses, and Alaska, which threw away almost 27% of its 1 million doses.

Several reasons for the wasted doses are noted in the report, including falling demand and large minimum order requirements. Additionally, the vaccine comes in a multidose vial which must be used within hours of opening. It also contains no preservatives and has a limited shelf life with specific storage instructions.

"The millions of wasted vaccine doses include some that expired on pharmacy shelves before they could be used, others that were spoiled by the thousands when power went out or freezers broke, and still others that were tossed at the end of the day when no one wanted the last few doses in an opened vial," the report states.

While the numbers may seem staggering, the report notes that the overall amount of waste is in line with World Health Organization estimates for large vaccination campaigns.

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