North Carolina's top public official acknowledged for the first time on Thursday that the state has seen a small number of coronavirus vaccine doses thrown out at a time when supplies remain limited.
The state has not publicly shared the number of doses wasted due to a vaccine being stored too long in a freezer or not being administered in a timely manner once it has been taken out of a freezer.
At a press conference Thursday, Health Secretary Dr. Cohen estimated the waste is “in the tens of doses.” She wants the 136 different vaccine providers in the state to develop waiting lists for residents 65 years or older who are currently eligible to get vaccinated. She said if providers have leftover doses, they should call down that list until they find someone who is able to come in at the last minute.
“But our guidance is also if you even can't find someone on that priority list, find the closest arm of who wants to get vaccinated and get that in, because we as a state don't want to waste any vaccine,” Cohen said.
Forsyth County Public Health Director Joshua Swift says the county does have a waiting list in place. But he says early on, some citizens did show up to vaccination facilities at the end of the day in hopes of getting a leftover dose – a practice the county does not recommend.
“We're not encouraging that at this time. We have a list of individuals that have already got a scheduled appointment who have told us they would be available on short notice to come in,” he said. “Again, we're always looking to modify and improve on that process.”
He also acknowledged some vaccine wastage has occurred, though he says it has been minimal.
“We have had just a few doses wasted. A person dropped the syringes or the vial,” said Swift. “You know, when you're working hard, unfortunately some things happen.”
State data shows over 573,000 vaccines doses have been administered in North Carolina as of Thursday.
The state health department is working to address concerns that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is not adequately representing the state's vaccine progress on a website where it releases vaccine data.
The CDC data on Wednesday ranked North Carolina as the 11th slowest state in the country in administering doses per capita and underrepresented the number of doses North Carolina has administered to date by about 150,000.
Cohen urged people to look at the state's dashboard for the latest numbers, rather than the CDC.
“Many of those rankings and charts are out of date,” Cohen said. “We've actually already flagged for the CDC to understand what the data lag and data discrepancy is between what we're seeing here in North Carolina and the data we do submit to them every night to make sure that we can line that up a bit better.”
The Trump administration said earlier this month that it would base vaccine allocations on the percentage of doses each state has successfully administered and the number of elderly residents in each state, but President Joe Biden's pick to lead the agency has not yet been confirmed or put forward new guidance.
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