CVS and Walgreens Have Wasted More Vaccine Doses Than Most States Combined

khn.org
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More than 200,000 doses of covid vaccine have gone to waste since December, KHN has learned. Two national pharmacy chains account for most of it.
Two national pharmacy chains that the federal government entrusted to inoculate people against covid-19 account for the lion's share of wasted vaccine doses, according to government data obtained by KHN.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 182,874 wasted doses as of late March, three months into the country's effort to vaccinate the masses against the coronavirus. Of those, CVS was responsible for nearly half, and Walgreens for 21%, or nearly 128,500 wasted shots combined.

CDC data suggests that the companies have wasted more doses than states, U.S. territories and federal agencies combined. Pfizer's vaccine, which in December was the first to be deployed and initially required storage at ultracold temperatures, represented nearly 60% of tossed doses.

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It's not completely clear from the CDC data why the two chains wasted so much more vaccine than states and federal agencies. Some critics have pointed to poor planning early in the rollout, when the Trump administration leaned heavily on CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate residents and staff members of long-term care facilities. In response to questions, CVS said "nearly all" of its reported vaccine waste occurred during that effort. Walgreens did not specify how many wasted doses were from the long-term care program.

One thing is clear: Months into the nation's vaccination drive, the CDC has a limited view of how much vaccine is going to waste, where it's wasted and who is wasting it, potentially complicating efforts to direct doses to where they are needed most. Public health experts say having a good handle on waste is crucial for detecting problems that could derail progress and risk lives.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which come in multidose vials, are fragile and have limited shelf lives. Overall, waste has been minuscule: As of March 30, the U.S. had delivered roughly 189.5 million vaccine doses and administered…
Joshua Eaton, Rachana Pradhan
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