According to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, 80,948 doses of vaccine could expire statewide by the end of July. By the end of August, another 755,730 doses could expire on shelves if they don't go into arms.
Locally, Wake County Human Services said 2,500 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine could expire by Aug. 7, and 4,500 doses of Pfizer are set to expire by the end of August. However, even with the lower demand, the department said it expects to use those Pfizer doses before they expire.
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Additionally, both Wake County Human Services and NCDHHS said the Food and Drug Administration could extend the expiration date for those Johnson & Johnson doses because of new data showing the vials are good for longer than originally thought, allowing extra time to give those shots.
Durham County Department Public Health Director Rod Jenkins said the number of doses set to expire in his county is much lower -- on the order of hundreds, thanks to careful planning by his department.
"We should not be talking about wasted doses or, you know, vaccines expiring," said Jenkins. "We should be talking about, you know, how can we get more vaccines to get shots in arms."
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Through the month of July, the state has been vaccinating between 78,000 and 90,000 people weekly. Though the middle of July saw the state's lowest vaccination rates since vaccines became available to adults older than 65 years old, vaccinations increased sharply last week. Jenkins attributed the increase to awareness of the Delta variant.
"This Delta variant is very serious," Jenkins said. "It's 60% more infectious than the original strain, and it is doing damage particularly to those who are unvaccinated."
Jenkins added that the best way to prevent the Delta variant is to continue the three W's -- wearing a mask, washing hands, and staying physically distant -- and to get vaccinated.
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"The only way to really end this pandemic and to make things better locally, nationally and globally is to get vaccinated," Jenkins said. "All three vaccines are still highly effective against COVID-19. We do know that it prevents severe infections and hospitalizations."
NCDHHS added that any doses that do not go to North Carolinians through state providers could go to federal retail pharmacy partners or back to the federal government, at which point they could be sent internationally to countries that have not been able to get doses to keep up with demand.
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