What happens with leftover vaccine doses in Central Texas?

Texas Coronavirus Vaccine

AUSTIN (KXAN) — According to a weekly report from the Texas Department of State Health Services, 375 doses of the vaccine have been wasted in Travis County.

Providers are required to self-report the reason why those doses were not used to vaccinate a person. Some of those reasons include mechanical failure of the freezer, broken vials or syringes, and vaccines that couldn’t be used within the required timeframe.

Immunization expert Dr. Peter Hotez told KXAN it’s important high-risk Texans are prioritized in the vaccination process, but with the increasing threat of new variants of the virus, it’s vital providers make good use of the doses they are allocated.

“I think we’ve got to de-stigmatize, you know. If we’re not adhering strictly by the guidelines, it’s not the vaccinators fault; it’s the fault of the guidelines,” he said.

KXAN investigators asked Central Texas providers what their policies were in regards to making sure vaccines don’t go to waste.

Austin Public Health sites

Austin Public Health does not have a waitlist program.

A spokesperson for APH said their doses were “carefully managed” at each site to ensure there are no unused vaccines left at the end of the day.

“The teams are very careful as the day starts winding down to only opening needed vials for remaining appointments,” the spokesperson said. “In the rare situation that a vial is opened and there are additional doses, staff and volunteers on-site are offered the vaccine.”

The spokesperson explained that volunteers and staff were eligible as front-line workers under the Department of State Health Services guidelines.

Circuit of the Americas drive-thru clinic

Travis County has partnered with Bastrop County, Caldwell County, Hays County, Ascension Seton, and CommUnityCare Health Centers to administer COVID-19 vaccines at drive-up events at the Circuit of the Americas.

To register for an appointment, people must be patients of CommUnityCare Health Centers or identified by one the respective participating counties as being in Phase 1A or 1B. Each of the respective counties and organizations contacts those who qualify to set up the appointment.

“The staff and personnel who prepare doses will carefully manage the amounts in order to assure no doses are wasted,” said Hector Nieto, the Travis County Public Information Officer. “After all patients have been attended to, if an open vial remains, staff and volunteers are given the opportunity to receive a vaccine.”

Williamson County

Williamson County maintains a waitlist for COVID-19 vaccine appointments.

County Judge Bill Gravell explained people who previously registered through Family Hospital Systems in their area would have their information transferred into the new system. Plus, people will be able to check their status, ensure their information is correct and remove themselves from the waitlist if they obtain their shot from another source.

A spokesperson for the county told KXAN, they use a standby list of eligible people to call and see if they can get to the vaccination site before the end of the day to receive a shot, in the case of leftovers. They also noted volunteers can be offered vaccinations if they volunteered 15 or more hours at a site.

The county reports that “no shows” to appointments are only a small part of what accounts for leftover doses.

The spokesperson explained, “Typically leftovers are due to some supplied needles being able to draw out more doses than the standard ten in each vial.”

The county has partnered with Curative to offer testing, as well.

A spokesperson for Curative said they plan the number of doses and appointments each day to be “directly tied” with the number of doses allocated.

“In the event that there are doses that are either drawn up or vials that have been removed from cold storage, we take a health equity approach for distribution, working closely with our county partners to ensure doses are properly distributed,” they said.

They explained that two hours prior to the end of their daily operations, the charge nurse will assess the number of doses that are either drawn up or vials that have been removed from cold storage. If that nurse determines there may be extra doses that are at risk of going to waste at the end of daily operations, they will first identify front-line workers on-site who have not been vaccinated, including medical personal, first responders, police/EMS, operations staff, and strike team — or “anyone working on-site.”

“From there, we go down the list of approved patients in order of eligibility,” the spokesperson said. “In the event that eligible patients from the waitlist arrive, under no circumstances should a new vial be opened. Once the remaining extra doses from daily operations are used, waitlisted patients who arrive after will then be deferred to another operating day and/or remain on the waitlist.”

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