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How many COVID-19 vaccines in Colorado have gone to waste?


We spoke to the hospital systems in Colorado and found waste is actually fairly low when it comes to unused or expired vaccines.

DENVER — As we get further into the vaccine rollout in Colorado, we started asking about doses that have gone unused throughout the process. 

We spoke to the hospital systems in Colorado and found waste is actually fairly low when it comes to unused or expired COVID vaccines. Here’s what each one told us:

UCHealth

UCHealth is administering tens of thousands of doses a week and, so far, has tracked two doses they couldn’t use. One of which was accidentally dropped. 

Dr. Michelle Barron, with UCHealth, said they treat the vaccines like liquid gold. 

“At the end of the day, if we miscounted or someone didn’t show up, we have a system in place to get people that missed their second dose, waiting for their second dose or first dose,” said Barron. 

She said the waitlist of people who are considered high priority has helped them make sure they don’t waste any doses. 

SCL Health

SCL Health also said their percentage of waste is very low. They do everything they can to find people at the end of the day at their clinics, including waiting into the evening for people to come in and get their shots. 

“We have an after-hours call list,” said Jennifer Biltoft.

This includes people who live within 15 minutes of their facilities and can be called to come in last minute to take extra doses. 

“Really it would be at the end of the day and we weren’t able to get someone in fast enough before the vial or syringe expired,” said Biltoft. “Short of it running out of its time, we do everything we can to get someone there.” 

HealthOne

In a statement, HealthOne said: “As a result of our very diligent efforts at maintaining storage conditions and careful clinic planning we have had virtually no waste (there was one broken syringe with one dose.)”

Denver Health 

Denver Health said they have had next to no waste so far, again referring back to waitlists and getting people in to take any leftover doses to make sure nothing is wasted. 

“I’m honestly not aware of a single wasted dose if they have extra,” said Dr. Simon Hambidge. 

The hospital also said it’s not aware of any doses going to waste due to power outages or storage issues. 

Kaiser

So far, Kaiser has seen roughly 300 doses they could not use out of the more than 150,000 they’ve administered so far in Colorado. 

A significant chunk was earlier this year for a total of 165 unusable doses after a power shortage caused by high winds. 

Kaiser shared this statement: 

“We have an efficient process in place to ensure every possible dose is used. This includes using our robust system to outreach any eligible Coloradan on our waitlist based on priority to offer a same-day appointment or inoculating any age-eligible Coloradan in our medical offices that are approved to provide the COVID-19 vaccine.”

CDPHE

For a statewide perspective, the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment provided this information: 

“The total number of unusable doses in Colorado as of March 18 [is] 838 doses. Of those, Pueblo Local Public Health rendered 300 doses of the Pfizer vaccine unusable after a portable vaccine storage unit malfunction. In addition, Kaiser had 165 unusable doses because of a power shortage caused by high winds. The rest were unused for a variety of reasons. Most of those instances were the result of a vial being dropped, a faulty syringe or needle, or a vial that was broken in transit.”

The state has so far distributed more than 2 million doses of the vaccine.

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