TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -In December and early January, AZ Family reported Maricopa County had more than 500 vaccine doses go to waste for various reasons. So, we wanted to know – is that happening here?
Vaccines started making their way into arms in Pima County in December. Since then, the county has administered more than 240,000 COVID-19 vaccines. Inevitably, some of the vaccine doses allocated to them, though, won’t be used.
“Some of the common reasons for wastage, and what I think accounts for most of these doses, would be things like dropping the loaded syringes, so then they get contaminated, and they have to be thrown,” said Crystal Rambaud, vaccine preventable disease program manager, PCHD. “You can drop vials, and they can shatter obviously. Those kind of things do happen, and that’s not negligence- it’s just human error and what happens when you’re handling tens of thousands of vaccines.”
Earlier this month KOLD News 13 sent a request to the county asking for how many COVID vaccine doses were allocated and wasted from December 1, 2020 to February 5, 2021. All-in-all, the losses seem pretty small—118 in total during that time frame. This makes up around less than .01 percent of the allocated doses to Pima County during the requested time frame.
According to the county, 47 Pfizer doses were discarded or otherwise unused at the Banner North location, five at TMC and one at the U of A. The county reports during that time frame, 51 Moderna doses were lost at the Kino Sports location (or Banner South location), nine at Banner North and five at TMC.
A spokesperson for Banner Health said in an email about discarded doses, “…there have been ZERO “spoiled” doses at the Kino Sports Complex vaccination site. Any doses that our team could not use since we’ve opened would be related to a broken needle or a dropped vial.”
A spokesperson for TMC said they have discarded 11 doses in total—one more than the county reports, though the time frame is not known. In an email, TMC said, “We have given 73,735 shots (we’ll reach 75,000 by this weekend!). Eleven doses were lost due to compounding error or dropped or bent needle. We have not wasted or lost any due to expiring vaccine.”
Pima County said their partners have been able to keep vaccine wastage to a minimum.
“We have worked with partners that have, for the most part, a lot of experience with vaccine and medicine management,” said Rambaud. “The scheduling is a lot tighter than it was, the registration had gotten a lot more streamlined, so that they’re really only having the right number of appointments and they’re able to draw up much more exact amounts and number of doses, so that there’s not a lot of left over stuff at the end of the day.”
However, the county does not have wastage data before January 15, so there are several weeks we are unsure how many doses were wasted.
We sent a request to the state for vaccine wastage reports providers must send to the state. This request showed interesting data on how vaccines went to waste—statewide.
According to the state data, 20 doses at Banner Casa Grande went bad due to “failure to store properly.” Several doses were drawn up, opened, but not used at several sites around the state—at least one patient changed their mind at Navajo County Health. 100 doses at the La Paz Health Department were spoiled. AZ Family reports that was due to a temperature sensor in the box containing the vaccines. Twenty doses of Moderna were “lost or unaccounted for” at the Yuma Regional Medical Center
According to reporting from AZ Family, Maricopa County discarded 553 vaccine doses from December 17 to January 20. This represents 0.3% of the doses that have been administered through these PODs to that date.
Pima county said the wastage that has occurred, has happened very slowly.