There was some drama yesterday about how much vaccine has been “wasted” at various Maricopa County mass vaccination sites. Journalists submitted public records requests to Maricopa County Department of Public Health and the ADHS asking for data about how many doses of vaccine were unusable at the various PODs. Maricopa County produced the data, sharing that a total of 553 doses out of 153,196 administered have been discarded at county PODs between December 17, 2020 and Jan. 20, 2021.
This represents 0.3% or 3 of every 1,000 doses that have been administered through these PODs to that date. For perspective, standard wastage for all vaccines in doctors’ and pediatric offices is between 3% and 5%.
I did a few interviews on the issue of accidents and problems that can happen when administering vaccinations including this one from FOX10 saying that a 0.3% wastage rate is a testament to good performance at the PODs. By comparison, wastage rates at pediatric offices are typically between 3-5%.
The drama came when Governor Ducey tweeted the following statement:
“The COVID19 vaccine is a precious and limited resource – that any doses would be wasted is shocking and unacceptable. This has not and will not happen at any state-run sites, and local leaders must prevent it from ever happening again at any county-run site.”
The statement that no problems have come up nor mistakes made at their branded State Farm POD is, of course, preposterous. There’s no way that a mass vaccination site like State Farm has never had an issue that led to a discarded vaccine. ADHS has not disclosed how many vaccines have been discarded at State Farm, but I can guarantee you that it is not zero. I’m hopeful ADHS will be quick to respond to press inquiries about its own data about vaccine wastage.
The fact that a small number of issues may have come up at State Farm and some vaccines discarded isn’t the issue. The problem is a when the Governor makes a false statement disparaging the performance of a key partner (performance that is, in fact, good) when the state itself is unwilling to disclose its own performance on that same metric… and then fabricates a tale that no vaccine has ever been discarded.
If there is any concern about the quality of the vaccine or any information is not readable on the label, manufacturers have advised providers to throw out the vaccine to maintain a safe operation. That can mean things like:
1) A vial does not have a readable label or expiration date and cannot be used;
2) There is particulate matter or “floaters” present in the vial and all 5 doses are wasted;
3) A vial is partially filled and none of the contents can be used;
4) Equipment malfunction, such as a bent needle, recapping issues, or the plunger is depressed accidentally; and
5) Draw-up issues like having a bubble in the syringe or a needle stick injury or an error mixing the dose.
These are issues that occur any time vaccines are given, particularly during large volume operations (this is not an exhaustive list of ways that vaccine doses can be unusable). Any large vaccine administration site that claims that “no doses are wasted” is not operating safely or not being honest about wasted doses.
Persons in key elected and appointed positions should be honest and transparent with the people of Arizona. We deserve at least that.