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CVS, Walgreens wasted thousands of COVID-19 vaccines: report

Pharmacy chains Walgreens and CVS have wasted thousands of COVID-19 vaccines according to a report from Kaiser Health News (KHN) published on Monday citing which cites government data it has obtained.

KHN reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recorded 182,874 wasted doses in late March, with CVS responsible for about half of those unused doses. Walgreens was responsible for about 21 percent of the overall wasted doses. In total, the two pharmacy chains wasted around 128,500 coronavirus vaccine shots, according to the data.

Of the wasted vaccines, those produced by Pfizer account for about 60 percent.

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This data indicates that the two pharmacy retailers have wasted more shots than all U.S. states, territories and federal agencies combined, KHN reports.

It is unclear why the pharmacy companies wasted so many shots, KHN reports, and the CDC does not yet have a full view of many vaccines are going to waste.

Michael DeAngelis, a spokesperson for CVS, blamed the wasted shots on “issues with transportation restrictions, limitations on redirecting unused doses, and other factors.”

“Despite the inherent challenges, our teams were able to limit waste to approximately one dose per onsite vaccination clinic,” DeAngelis added.

A spokesperson for Walgreens, Kris Lathan, told the outlet, “Our goal has always been ensuring every dose of vaccine is used."

However, KHN notes that the overall amount of wasted vaccines is minimal when compared to the nearly 190 million that have been delivered and the 148 million that have been administered in the U.S.

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Bruce Lee, a health professor from the City University of New York, told KHN that because the U.S. government is paying for the vaccines, any waste is “basically throwing [taxpayer] money down the chute."

D.C. and 33 states provided KHN with further data that showed an additional 18,675 wasted doses not accounted for by the CDC.

Kate Fowlie of the CDC told KHN that because CVS and Walgreens were tasked with administering so many doses, “a higher percentage of the overall wastage would not be unexpected, particularly in an early vaccination effort that spanned thousands of locations.”

“Though every effort is made to reduce the volume of wastage in a vaccination program, sometimes it’s necessary to identify doses as ‘waste’ to ensure anyone wanting a vaccine can receive it, as well as to ensure patient safety and vaccine effectiveness,” Fowlie added.

According to the CDC, more than 246 million coronavirus vaccine shots have been administered so far. More than 56 percent of U.S. adults have received at least one dose and around 32 percent are fully vaccinated.