Do some COVID-19 vaccines go unused? UNC Health says that is not the case

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- The state wants to ensure no vaccine doses go unused. That's also the priority at UNC Health.

Stories came in over the weekend that suggested doses were being given out to anyone including graduate students so ABC11 looked into it.

Dr. David Wohl, an infectious diseases specialist at UNC, said when they open vials of any given vaccine, they don't know how many doses they're going to remove.

The needles also only have a certain amount of shelf-life.

"It's all a complicated way of saying it's hard to predict how much you're going to have left over at the end of the day especially if you don't have a multiple of the capacity of the vial," Dr. Wohl said.

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They don't want to book appointments they can't keep and have people show up and be out of a vaccine. So if it's late in the afternoon, according to Dr. Wohl, and they only have a half hour to go in the day, they'll use a priority list.

First comes people at the Friday Center then local partners: like grocery store workers at the Harris Teeter in Meadowmont, those at the Ronald McDonald House in Chapel Hill or housekeepers at a nearby hotel.

Dr. Wohl said they focus on those 65 and up as well as those in underserved populations.

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"We're a little bit more liberal toward the end of the day because we don't want to waste the doses," he said. "This is not New York City though where you're just a token or Metro Card away your clinic, people have to travel."

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Duke also said it has procedures in place to avoid this. One of the things is not preparing doses too far in advance.

"We have processes in place for waste avoidance, including not preparing doses too far in advance," Duke officials said. "By the end of the day, the clinics are preparing only as many vials/doses are absolutely needed for patients. Any remaining doses are being administered to clinic volunteers or standby lists of people who are within the prioritized groups to ensure that no doses go to waste.

"We understand it's been very frustrating for a lot of folks out there," Dr. Wohl said. "The biggest part is that there hasn't been enough vaccine. When you have more, you have more leeway and flexibility."

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