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Thousands Of COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Have Spoiled Or Spilled In Florida

A worker holds a bottle of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, as the mass public vaccination program gets underway at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, England, Tuesday Dec. 8, 2020. The CDC on Saturday released guidance on vaccination for those with preexisting conditions.
A worker holds a bottle of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Florida health care officials have wasted more than 3,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, a spokesman for the Department of Health said Wednesday.

Florida health care officials have wasted more than 3,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, a spokesman for the state Department of Health said.

As of Wednesday, 3,344 doses were broken or left unused after thawing, the spokesman, Jason Mahon, wrote in an email to theMiami Herald.

That raw total may seem high at a time when pandemic-fatigued Floridians all over the state are awaiting their chance at the potentially life-saving shot, but the health department said 99.8 percent of shots given as of Wednesday were administered without any issue, spoilage or waste.​

The state has gotten more than 3 million doses from the federal government, and officials are reporting spoilage of about one in 1,000 doses.

Vaccine providers report wasted or spoiled doses to public health authorities, but it's difficult to know how many doses are being wasted around the country.

In an interview with NPR, Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University, said strict guidelines around vaccine eligibility are causing some surplus doses to be discarded.

When the U.S. first rolled out its vaccination distribution effort, the federal government urged states to reserve initial doses for select population groups — primarily frontline health care workers and long-term care facility residents.

Complicating logistics, both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require storage in ulta-cold temperatures, and must be used or thrown out within six hours after a thawed vial has been opened. In some cases, people were failing to show up for their shots and prepared doses may have been wasted.

“If you get to the end of your clinic and every nurse has half a vial left, what are you going to do with that vaccine?” Heather Suri, a registered nurse in Virginia, told Kaiser Health News. “The clock is ticking. You don’t want to waste those doses.”

Information from WLRN, Health News Florida partner the Miami Herald, NPR, Kaiser News Service and the Associated Press was used in this report.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.