Vermont Health Department deals with more vaccine waste

As vaccination rates continue to slow down, the amount of waste being created has doubled.
Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 8:50 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - As vaccination rates continue to slow down, the amount of waste being created has doubled.

The Vermont Health Department says it’s a balance. They’re trying to minimize waste, while also trying to still give out shots.

The health department is given a certain number of doses from the federal government. Unless there are federally qualified pharmacies or a private pharmacy like Kinney or Walgreens, everyone else orders from the state.

Vaccines can be ordered and shipped directly to larger vaccine distributors or central distribution spots. In the latter, vaccines can be reallocated into smaller shipments for those that need less like a doctor’s office.

Monica Ogelby, the immunization program manager for the state, says so far this has been a success in the eyes of the feds.

“I think that’s by and large due to the fact that we have a small state, and so we can maintain quite a bit of control,” said Ogelby.

That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been waste. At the height of vaccination, the health department reports about 5% waste. Now, it’s about 10%.

Ogelby says the increase in waste comes from having to open a new vial for just one dose. Since some vials are only good for six hours, the rest of the doses get trashed.

“The vast majority of the waste we have been experiencing is because we live in a rural state, and we do barnstorm, and we send EMS crews sort of all over the Northeast Kingdom or different parts of the state of Vermont, and if they find someone that wants to get vaccinated, then we vaccinate them,” said Ogelby.

Ogelby says they are conscious that the dumped doses end up in landfills, so they are trying their best to manage a public health crisis and the trash.

“It goes in a medical waste bag, and it’s taken away by medical waste removers. You know some people put it in a sharps container because it is glass, but it’s not technically sharp, so it can go in anything that you can throw glass in. Then it gets put in a landfill. It does not get returned to the manufacturer or anything like that,” said Ogelby.

She says they hope as more people get boosted, more doses are used. They do expect more vaccine appointments now that a second booster has been approved for ages 50 and up.

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