The United States wasted more than 82 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from December 2020 to May 2022, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports NBC News.
The 82 million figure covers U.S. territories, states, federal agencies, and pharmacies.
It also accounts for roughly 11% of the total number of vaccine doses used during that period.
Pharmacy retail giants CVS and Walmart were reportedly responsible for more than 25% percent of the wasted vaccines during that 17-month stretch, partly due to the sheer volume of vaccines handled.
Also, Costco, DaVita, Health Mart, Publix, and Rite Aid discarded fewer overall doses than CVS and Walmart, but still wasted more than a quarter of vaccines received — well above the national average.
Within the U.S., Alaska and Oklahoma discarded the highest percentage of vaccine doses — at 27% (1 million doses) and 28% (4 million doses), respectively.
What constitutes a "wasted" or "discarded" vaccine dose?
- Doses that expired on pharmacy shelves before being properly used.
- Doses spoiled by electricity outages, specifically affecting refrigerators or freezers.
- Doses that were tossed at the end of the day when no one wanted the last few doses in an opened vial.
Coronavirus vaccines come in multidose vials, which means all the doses must be used within hours, once the vials are opened — or discarded.
Either way, the amount of discarded doses runs similar to other World Health Organization estimates for large-vaccination campaigns.
However, it's still an "alarming" amount of waste for health experts to process, citing two reasons:
1) A number of poorer countries are struggling to get an adequate supply of COVID vaccine doses.
2) Less than half of fully vaccinated Americans reportedly have received a booster shot for COVID.
"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.
Pharmacies such as CVS and Rite Aid prioritized offering the vaccine on demand.
"We often have to open a multidose vial at the end of the day for a single walk-in," CVS said in a statement.
"Those vials have a very limited shelf life, which unfortunately means unused vaccine will be disposed of. The same challenge is faced by others administering vaccinations."
CVS wasted or discarded nearly 11.8 million of its doses, or 13% of the total allotment.
Walgreens, which wasted or discarded 8.3 million doses, pointed to no-show appointments, cancellations, and open vials expiring as reasons for its vaccines waste.
"The demand has plateaued or is coming down, and that leads to open-vial wastage — especially with multidose vials," said Ravi Anupindi, a professor of operations research and management at the University of Michigan.
"It's a demand problem," added Anupindi.
© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.