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 each have thousands of unopened bottles due to the declining demand for shots.
Health departments have urged the Biden administration to extend the shelf life of the vaccines or send their additional supplies 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 chief coordinators of the state’s vaccine distribution program, told STAT News.
“It’s getting a little crazy and we want to make sure we’re good stewards.”
Millions of unused doses of COVID-19 vaccines will expire in the next two months as demand dwindles and has asked for their unused doses to be sent abroad. Pictured: Boxes containing Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine are unloaded from air freight containers in Louisville, Kentucky, December 2020
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 390.7 million vaccine doses distributed across the U.S.
However, only 338.4 million have been administered, a difference of 52.3 million doses.
While part of the difference is likely due to reporting delays by state health departments, it is also likely due to some states having excess vaccines.
Arkansas stopped accepting vaccine orders from the federal government in late April in an effort to use up its stock.
According to Ator, the state had 500,000 unused doses at the time.
Since then, they’ve only delivered 120,000 doses, leaving 380,000 injections with 100,000 due to expire by the end of this month.
“We’re still working on it. I don’t want to waste anything,” Ator told STAT News.
In North Carolina, which has also stopped ordering doses, they have 119,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson injections that will expire in July and 854,000 that will expire in August, STAT News reported.
To prevent more wasted, the state has already returned 1.2 million doses to the White House.
Colorado also tried to avoid wasted doses, returning more than 175,000 to the federal pool.
However, according to STAT News, at least 352,000 doses will expire in the summer.
Delaware officials say they are on a stock of 25,000 expiring next month.
‘We prefer to waste zero doses. If we have it, let’s get it in someone’s arm,” Chris Kopach, Covid incident commander at the University of Arizona, told STAT News.
The center currently stores 100,000, many of which will expire in August.
In May, officials asked if they could send some doses to Mexico, but the federal government says this is proving to be legally and logistically difficult.
“It’s a great opportunity to work with our neighbors. Can we just give it to Mexico? In reality, it’s not for me to care,” 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 he did not have the authority to do so.
“It was a US government funded product and it was given to us. We can’t just give it away,” he told STAT News.