Is any COVID-19 vaccine going to waste in Georgia? Here’s what we’ve learned

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — As more and more Georgians receive their COVID-19 vaccines, we wanted to know what happens to the vaccine that is left over from opened vials at the end of the day.

If it’s not used within a certain amount of time, the vaccine is no longer usable.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray has obtained state records that show Georgia is doing a good job of not wasting the vaccine.

The records show only 0.2% of the state’s vaccine allocation has had to be thrown out so far.

Gray went out to a vaccine site on Friday and ran into Sharon Barnhart from DeKalb County. She had just gotten her second dose of the vaccine.

“We’re just excited about being able to spend time with our grandkids again,” Barnhart said. “We get to leave home, go places. Freebirds.”

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Every facility distributing vaccines is required to sign a provider agreement and report any wasted doses.

“We want to make sure we are getting as many doses in arms as possible,” said Dr. Chris Rustin with the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Gray obtained a spreadsheet from DPH showing each provider’s wasted vaccine. All together, including spoiled and damaged vials, the state has reported 3,887 wasted doses in Georgia, which is about 0.2% of the vaccine administered so far.

Gray found 1,607 doses that were wasted because they were “not needed after prepared.”

“The issue that we run into is this is usually the end of the day. And we’re getting close to when that vaccine has to be discarded,” Rustin said.

The Moderna vaccine comes in 10-dose vials and the Pfizer vials contain six doses. If some of those are left over, Rustin said the state guidance is for providers to keep a wait list.

But if there’s not enough time, the state encourages distribution to anyone regardless of what phase they are in.

“If there’s someone available, 30-, 40-years-old, I would much rather see that dose go into that arm than go into the trash,” Rustin said.

Gray contacted several providers Friday. Publix told him they distribute any potentially wasted vaccine to their front-line employees.

Cobb County said they will provide second doses to their front-line staff.

In DeKalb County, they say they have given that small number of leftover doses to senior citizens who have showed up without an appointment at the end of the day, just in case.