Story at a glance

  • NBC News reports at least 15.1 million vaccine doses have been discarded since March, citing government data.
  • The data is self-reported and likely to be an undercount as it’s missing some states and vaccine providers.
  • The number of wasted doses is dwarfed by the more than 370 million shots that have gone in the arms of Americans.

More than 15 million COVID-19 doses have been thrown away in the U.S. over the past several months, and that figure is likely higher, according to a report from NBC News

Citing government data, the outlet reports pharmacies, state governments and other vaccine providers have tossed out at least 15.1 million vaccine doses since March. 1. 

Walgreens alone reported nearly 2.6 million wasted doses, CVS reported 2.3 million and Walmart and Rite Aid reported more than 1 million each, according to NBC News. 

Meanwhile, Texas threw out more than 500,000 doses, more than any state. North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma discarded more than 200,000 doses each. 


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The data is self-reported and likely to be an undercount as it’s missing some states and vaccine providers. The data also does not include doses wasted by federal agencies like the Department of Defense. NBC reports the data does not include the reason doses were discarded, although doses are thrown away for a variety of reasons, including cracked vials, errors in diluting the vaccine or freezer issues. 

But most of the wasted doses are likely the result of how the vaccines are packaged. Once a vaccine vial containing multiple doses is punctured it has a limited time of viability. Moderna’s vaccine has a 12-hour lifespan before it has to be discarded, while Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson have to be tossed after six hours, according to NBC News. 

That means there may not be enough immediate demand for a whole vial to be used. 

But the number of wasted doses is dwarfed by the more than 370 million shots that have gone in the arms of Americans since the rollout kicked off late last year. More than 61 percent of eligible Americans have been fully vaccinated with 72.5 percent receiving at least one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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Published on Sep 02, 2021