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Maricopa County discards over 500 COVID-19 vaccines through first month

(Silas Walker/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)

PHOENIX — Maricopa County Public Health said Tuesday some unused coronavirus vaccines have been thrown out but the action helps maintain quality.

A total of 553 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been discarded out of the 153,196 doses administered from Dec. 17 to Jan. 20, according to a press release.

“No usable dose of COVID-19 vaccine is being wasted,” the county said in the release. “We have worked closely with our health care partners to report to us daily what they consider vaccine waste.

“That means 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 in order to maintain a safe operation.”

Reasons for discarding vaccines can vary from manufacturing issues to equipment malfunctions. Some issues include vials without labels or expiration dates, particulate matter present in the vial, partially filled vials and needle or syringe malfunctions.

The county has implemented multiple procedures to reduce the waste of the vaccines, which must be thawed before injection.

Those processes include using five regional distribution sites so all doses that are packaged per vial can be used without waste.

Officials have also made scheduled appointments a requirement in order to help monitor how many vaccine vials need to be used and thawed before patients arrive.

To compensate for cancellations and no-shows, the county has been distributing leftover doses to eligible health care workers and law enforcement, who have been notified ahead of time to standby for potentially receiving the vaccines.

The county says standard wastage for vaccines is typically around 5%. Arizona’s distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine has discarded just .3%.

On Tuesday, Arizona ranked 32nd out of 50 states in shots per 100,000 residents, according to tracking by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The state health department website has a vaccine-finder page with a map of locations and information about registration.

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