Coronavirus Coverage from KARK

Working 4 You: Concerns growing about wasted vaccines, doses possibly being trashed across the country

Coronavirus

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — As more people across Arkansas are becoming eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, there is growing concern that some doses are ending up in the trash.  

Reports from across the country point to thousands of wasted doses, but in a Working 4 You we found that’s far from the case in Arkansas. 

We pulled state records and found in about three months 231 useable doses were thrown out. When compared to almost half a million doses that made it into arm, it’s a drop in the bucket.   

Kavanaugh Pharmacy in Little Rock is one of dozens of places that hasn’t wasted a useable dose.  

“The first vial I drew up, it felt like liquid gold,” said Anne Pace, co-owner and pharmacist. “If I can get one more person vaccinated, I know I just changed their life,”  

She says it all comes down to planning and making sure her team coordinates appointments with the number of doses in a vial. Pharmacists also prepare syringes in batches which Pace says helps ensure they rarely are left with an extra vaccine.  

In the chance there is one, Pace says she’d never toss it in the trash.  

“We’re going to get it in somebody’s arm,” she added.  

As of Thursday, March 11 the Arkansas Department of Health reported 789,794 doses have been used across the state. Factor in the usable doses that were wasted, and it equals a less than 1 percent chance of a dose ending up in the trash.  

That number doesn’t surprise Zach Haley, Co-owner and Pharmacist at Westside Pharmacy in Benton.  

Westside also makes the list of pharmacies that haven’t thrown away a useable does. They have no waste down to a science and Haley says they end see a couple extra doses a week.  

“We can really quickly find someone that meets the criteria,” he said.  

Haley and his staff are no strangers to working overtime to make sure shots get in the arms of those who need them most. He says they keep a list of patients, many who are elderly or don’t have internet access to schedule appointments online, and can quickly pull from them if there’s an extra dose.  

“We’ll stay late, wait on you, bring it to your house,” Haley said.  

In an unexpected side effect, both Westside and Kavanaugh claim they’ve been inundated with calls from people trying to get on a waiting list for extra doses. Neither pharmacy keeps a list for that, saying they easily pull from people who are eligible, especially as the state opened up more tiers.  

For those whose turn it is to the vaccine, it’s not lost on them that less waste helps keep their spot in line.  

“The sooner we get this out of the way the sooner we can start planning for the future,” said William West, as he received his first dose of the vaccine at Kavanaugh.  

“When you think about getting hundreds of millions of people vaccinated you know it doesn’t sound like much but every person that doesn’t get vaccinated could put themselves or somebody else at risk,” he added. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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