Pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens were responsible for the vast majority of wasted coronavirus vaccine doses reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Kaiser Health News.
The CDC reported 182,874 wasted vaccine doses through late March. Nearly half of the wasted doses were at CVS locations and another 21% were at Walgreens locations.
The Pfizer vaccine, which requires ultracold storage, made up 60% of the disposed doses.
The data suggests the two companies “have wasted more doses than states, U.S. territories and federal agencies combined,” KHN reported.
It’s not clear from the data why the two pharmacy giants have tossed so many doses.
Critics have blamed poor planning by the Trump administration early in the vaccine rollout as it relied on the two pharmacy chains to run point on the government’s efforts to vaccinate residents and staff at long-term care facilities.
CVS said “nearly all” of its wasted doses came during that effort.
Critics have also slammed the effort as “slow and ineffective,” according to the report. By February, only 37.5% of nursing home staffers reported getting their first short.
“To me, this ultimately correlates with just poor planning,” Dr. Michael Wasserman, the former president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine, told the outlet. “CVS and Walgreens didn’t have a clue when it came to interacting with nursing homes. Missed opportunities for vaccination in long-term care invariably results in deaths.”
Companies say waste was limited:
A CVS spokesman told the outlet that the wasted doses were the result of “issues with transportation restrictions, limitations on redirecting unused doses, and other factors.”
“Despite the inherent challenges, our teams were able to limit waste to approximately one dose per onsite vaccination clinic,” the spokesman said.
Walgreens said the number of wasted doses is less than 0.5% of the vaccines the company has administered through late March.
“Our goal has always been ensuring every dose of vaccine is used,” a spokesperson said, adding that the company has implemented a system “which minimized excess and reduced overestimations.”
A CDC spokesperson told the outlet that because the retailers were tasked with administering a large number of vaccines, “a higher percentage of the overall wastage would not be unexpected, particularly in an early vaccination effort that spanned thousands of locations.”