Sep 1, 2021 - Health

Report: U.S. has discarded over 15 million COVID vaccine doses since March

A nurse reaches for a vial of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a pop up vaccine clinic in the Arleta neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, August 23, 2021
A nurse reaches for a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up vaccine clinic in the Arleta neighborhood of Los Angeles. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. has discarded at least 15.1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines since March 1, according to government data obtained by NBC News.

Why it matters: The data comes as the Delta variant spreads rapidly across the country, and after the Biden administration announced plans to roll out booster shots — renewing the need for an ample vaccine supply.

  • Globally, some nations have struggled to vaccinate large majorities of their residents — in many cases due to limited vaccine supply.

Driving the news: Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention obtained by NBC reveals that four national pharmacies — Walgreens, CVS, Walmart and Rite Aid — have wasted more than 1 million doses each.

  • Walgreens reportedly discarded 2.6 million doses, CVS reported 2.3 million discarded, Walmart reported 1.6 million and Rite Aid reported 1.1 million, per NBC.
  • Health departments in four states — Texas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma — each reported more than 200,000 wasted doses, NBC reported.
  • Reasons for discarding doses include cracked vials, errors diluting the vaccine and freezer malfunctions, among other things.

The big picture: The data on wasted doses — still a small fraction of the overall doses distributed in the U.S. — is based on self-reporting from pharmacies, states and other providers, meaning more doses may have been wasted than reported.

Go deeper: CVS and Walgreens have wasted over 128,000 COVID doses

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