MPA | Pharmacy News

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. CVS was responsible for nearly half, and Walgreens was responsible for 21 percent, or nearly 128,500 wasted shots combined.

CDC data suggest 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, made up nearly 60 percent of the tossed doses.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

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 didn't specify how many doses were wasted during the long-term care program.

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

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