A survey of data from 10 states shows that more than 1 million doses have gone to waste since the nation began administering COVID-19 vaccines in December.
Much of the loss has come as demand for inoculations plummeted, with the daily rate of vaccinations now at less than one-fifth of its peak average of 3.4 million shots, reached in mid-April.
More than 110,000 doses have been destroyed in Georgia, officials there said. Of the more than 53,000 doses wasted in New Jersey, nearly 20,000 were discarded in June, up from around 4,000 in April. In Ohio, more than 370,000 doses have been reported as unusable by state providers, while around 50,000 doses in Maryland were not used, officials said.
Reasons for vaccine wastage include breakage, storage and transportation problems, expiration, and shots that were prepared but not used after people did not show up for appointments, officials said.
State data does not include all doses that the federal government ships directly to chain pharmacies, so there could be unaccounted-for waste.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks wasted doses, but did not respond to a request for that data, which would provide a broader national picture.
The rise in wasted vaccine doses reflects the challenge American health officials face in inoculating residents, even as the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus fuels outbreaks among the unvaccinated across the United States.
Vaccinations are now ticking upward in some states; more than 850,000 shots were recorded on Friday, raising the daily national average to more than 650,000 from about 500,000 three weeks ago. Still, more than half of the US population is not fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database. That includes children younger than 12, who are not yet eligible.
Many states have asked about redistributing unused vaccines abroad, but once the doses are shipped out to states, federal regulations prohibit recalling them. And some countries, like Canada, have declined states’ offers of surplus vaccines.
“Early on, it was kind of a crisis because people wanted it and couldn’t get it, and now it’s a crisis because we’ve got it and people don’t want it,” said Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
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