The U.S. Is Literally Throwing Vaccine in the Trash
Northern Virginia healthcare workers told me their hospitals throw away COVID-19 vaccines at 5 p.m., when the clinics close.
There are multiple vaccine doses in one refrigerated vial; when a vial thaws, it must be used within a matter of hours. If a clinic has no-shows or scheduling errors, the extra doses end up tossed. Two sources told me they were vaccinated simply for being near hospital premises at closing time. (Wondering if I should tell my elderly nun friends to mill about Walgreens at dusk?).
While staggering target groups according to supposed need seems optimal, this strategy might not actually be the most productive. CNN reported that people in “high-priority groups,” like residents in senior-living facilities, don’t always want to get the vaccine first. Stringent laws also forbid healthcare workers from distributing outside the target group; they could face severe consequences for administering vaccines to anyone else, even if they can’t fill spots otherwise.
Much of this is bureaucratic failure. New York faced backlash for its testing registration process, which included things like filling out a 50-question survey and uploading insurance cards online. The NYC Health website itself is prone to bugs and crashing. I could barely navigate it, and I spend all my time on the internet — how can the government expect those without digital literacy skills to jump through such hoops?
The hopefully good news:
Cuomo did expand eligibility today, giving access to New Yorkers aged 75 and older. There’s also some new leniency regarding rollout; if there are extra doses at the end of the day, all public-facing employees (such as cashiers) can get them. California implemented a similar policy for lower-priority groups.
Honestly, this is an infrastructure nightmare — but healthcare workers shouldn’t be caught in the bind between legal nuances and medical obligations. And there certainly shouldn’t be a single dose going to waste.