Orange County

‘It hurts’: Some COVID-19 shots being thrown away before use, leaving fewer vaccinated from COVID-19

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Orange County is giving thousands of COVID-19 vaccines a day, but 9 Investigates has learned that some of those shots have to be thrown away.

While it’s a small amount, health leaders say any loss right now is too much.

Channel 9′s Lauren Seabrook looked into why this is happening, and what county health officers might do to make sure every last dose goes into someone’s arm.

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While 2,500 people drive through the Orange County Convention Center every day to receive their COVID-19 vaccine, countless others wish they could be in the line.

But at the end of the day, there are sometimes leftover shots that must be thrown out.

“They have to go into (the) trash,” Orange County Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino said. “We have to account for them, we have to report it.”

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About two or three shots out of 2,500 appointments a day account for the waste. That’s 0.8%.

In a normal situation, Pino said, that would be considered next to nothing. But when the community is racing toward herd immunity to save as many lives as possible, it adds up.

Two shots a day is 14 a week, and 56 a month. That’s 56 more people who could be protected from COVID-19.

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“It hurts, ethically speaking,” Pino said. “Again, we are avoiding that most days. But ethically speaking, it hurts.”

Pino said sometimes a shot is wasted because the needle breaks, or the wrong amount was pulled from the vial, and the needle can’t go back in.

But it can also be from no-shows or late cancellations.

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“The temperature control and the time is just killing us and everyone,” Pino said. “It’s very stressful.”

The vaccine can only be used up to five hours after it’s pulled from the freezer.

Health staff looks at the cancellation rate from the day before and try to underdraw, but it doesn’t always cover them.

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Pino said a waitlist may start soon to call people if they have leftovers.

“I will not know that until after 9 (p.m.) and we close at 10 p.m., so it’s challenging, Pino said.

Right now, they’re giving those doses to employees with the Department of Health and convention center employees.

READ: Volusia County to open more than 1K COVID-19 vaccine appointments this week

Pino said other vaccines could be approved soon and be kept at normal temperatures, which officials said would be a game changer.

He said one thing that helps make up for any waste is that Pfizer’s vials are supposed to only have five doses in them, and that’s how they book appointments, but sometimes they’re able to pull a full sixth dose out.

Adam Poulisse,

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.