States across the country are sitting on millions of unused COVID-19 vaccine doses that will soon expire.
Public health officials in Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware and North Carolina told STAT News they have thousands of vials of each that haven’t been opened due to the declining demand for shots.
Health departments have urged the Biden administration to extend the shelf life of the vaccines or to send their extra supply to other counties, but their requests have been denied.
‘We’re drowning in this stuff,’ Robert Ator, a retired colonel in the Arkansas Air National Guard and lead coordinators of the state’s vaccine distribution program, told STAT News.
‘It’s starting to get a bit silly and we want to make sure we’re being good stewards.’
Million of unused COVID-19 vaccines doses are set to expire in the next two months as demand drops off and have asked to send their unused doses overseas. Pictured: Boxes containing Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine are unloaded from air shipping containers in Louisville, Kentucky, December 2020
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 390.7 million vaccine doses have been distributed across the U.S.
However, just 338.4 million have been administered, a difference of 52.3 million doses.
Although some of the difference is likely due to reporting delays from state health departments, it’s also likely due to some states having excess vaccines
Arkansas stopped accepting vaccine orders from the federal government in late April in an attempt to use up its stock.
At the time, the state had 500,000 unused doses, according to Ator.
Since then, they have administered just 120,000 doses, leaving them with 380,000 shots left, of which 100,000 will expire at the end of this month.
‘We’re still chopping away at it. I don’t wan to waste a thing,’ Ator told STAT News.
In North Carolina, which also has stopped ordering doses, they have 119,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots that will expire in July and 854,000 that will expire in August, reported STAT News.
To prevent more from being wasted, the state has already given back 1.2 million doses to the White House.
Colorado also attempted to prevent doses from being wasted, returning more than 175,000 to the federal pool.
However, at least 352,000 doses are set to expire over the summer, according to STAT News.
Delaware officials say they are sitting on a stockpile of doss with 25,000 that will expire next month.
‘We would prefer to waste zero doses. If we have it, let’s get it in somebody’s arm,’ Chris Kopach, Covid incident commander at the University of Arizona, told STAT News.
The center is currently storing 100,000, many of which are due to expire in August.
In May, officials asked if they could send some doses to Mexico, but the federal government says this is proving legally and logistically difficult.
‘It’s a great opportunity to partner with our neighbors. Could we just give it to Mexico? In reality, it’s not for me to give,’ Kopach said.
Kody Kinsley, Chief Deputy Secretary for Health at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said he also tried to redistribute the vaccine but was told he didn’t have the authority to do so.
‘It was a U.S. government-funded product, and it was given to us. We can’t just give it away,’ he told STAT News.