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Public Health

Posted on: February 2, 2021

Public Health Statement on Unused Vaccine Doses

COVID-19-News Update

Maricopa County Public Health administers approximately 100,000 vaccines every year in our community. As subject matter experts in vaccine delivery, it is our priority and mission to make sure vaccine is delivered safely. COVID vaccine is no different.  

No usable dose of COVID-19 vaccine is being wasted. We have worked closely with our healthcare partners to report to us daily what they consider vaccine waste. That means if there is any concern about the quality of the vaccine or any information is not readable on the label, manufacturers have advised providers to throw out the vaccine in order to maintain a safe operation.  

Some examples include: 

  • Manufacturing issues  
  1. A vial does not have a readable label or expiration date  
  2. There is particulate matter or “floaters” present in the vial and all 5 doses are wasted 
  • A vial is partially filled and none of the contents can be used 
  • Equipment malfunction, such as a bent needle, recapping issues, or the plunger is depressed accidentally 
  • Draw-up issues like having a bubble in the syringe or a needle stick injury or an error mixing the dose 

These are common issues that occur anytime vaccines are given, particularly during large volume operations.  Any large vaccine administration site that claims that “no doses are wasted” is not operating safely. 

Across the five county-led points of distribution (PODs), there have been a total of 553 doses out of 153,196 administered that had to be discarded since distribution began on December 17, 2020 through Jan. 20, 2021. This represents 0.3%, which means that 997 out of every 1000 doses received by the PODs go into arms. For perspective, the standard acceptable wastage for all vaccines is normally about 5%.  

To make sure all usable doses are delivered while maintaining patient safety, Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) and its partners have developed a multi-layered process. These layers include:

  • Operating large-scale regional sites to draw larger numbers of people through, reducing waste from vials that contain at least five doses per vial 
  • Requiring appointments, so that doses can be thawed and reconstituted based on anticipated number of patients daily 
  • Anticipating a certain percentage of no-shows and cancellations to avoid preparing too many doses 
  • Administering leftover doses to volunteers (who are eligible as workers at a healthcare site) or other eligible groups (such as local law enforcement, who may be on standby for doses at the end of the day) 

As an example, during last week’s storm, when we had to temporarily close the Dignity POD, we hand-delivered all unused vaccine to State Farm so that no dose would be wasted. This is just one example of how Maricopa County PODs are problem solving and ensuring that no usable vaccine is discarded.  

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