Some Erie County COVID-19 vaccine providers have ‘wasted’ more than 50% of their doses –

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UPMC Hamot offers 3rd doses of COVID-19 vaccine to immunocompromised

Jason Chenault, UPMC Hamot’s director of emergency, hospitalist and critical-care services, discusses who can receive a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

David Bruce, Erie Times-News

UPMC Hamot and Albion Pharmacy have wasted nearly the same number of COVID-19 vaccine doses. Hamot has disposed of 384 unadministered doses, while Albion Pharmacy has disposed of 376 doses.

The difference is that Hamot has received 66,105 vaccine doses, so it has wasted just 0.6% of its vaccine, while Albion Pharmacy has received 550 doses, wasting 68.4% of them.

“When we first ordered vaccine, the only way to order it was to get 450 doses from Pfizer,” said Megan Dreher, Albion Pharmacy manager. “We didn’t have the special refrigeration to store it, so the vaccine was only good for six weeks. There just wasn’t much of a demand. We even tried reaching out to the schools.”

Wasting COVID-19 vaccine was a significant concern earlier this year when demand was intense and vaccine was in short supply. Hamot and other providers took extraordinary measures to use every dose, including driving to people’s homes after a vaccine clinic closed for the day to administer extra doses.

Now there is plenty of vaccine and demand has waned. Still, vaccine providers don’t want to waste any doses.

“I continue to think wasting vaccine is a big deal,” said Melissa Lyon, Erie County Department of Health director. “This is a very effective vaccine and we don’t want to waste even a single dose.”

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The county health department has disposed of 4,192 of its doses — 14.4% of the 29,060 it has received — without administering them. It’s the highest number of wasted doses of any Erie County vaccine provider, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

A total of 1,414 of those doses spoiled, while another 2,771 doses were not administered after the vial was opened. Other ways doses are wasted are if the vial is broken or if the vaccine is drawn but not given within a certain period of time, usually two to 12 hours depending on the type of vaccine.

“One thing that happened was when the state-mandated that you accept walk-ins at vaccination clinics,” Lyon said. “That took away your control to prevent any waste. If someone wanted a dose, you had to open a vial (of six or 10 doses) even if no one else was getting a shot.”

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Officials with Adagio Health, a Pittsburgh-based health-care organization whose clinics primarily serve women and low-income residents, offered a similar explanation for the high percentage of wasted vaccine doses at their Erie County offices.

Its Erie and Edinboro offices disposed of 1,695, or 59.2%, of their combined 2,860 doses.

“When we underwent our training with the state health department about the vaccine, they stressed the importance of getting doses into people’s arms,” said Natalie Crouse, Adagio Health’s senior director of clinical operations. “Vaccinating one person, and having to dispose of the other five doses in a vial, is better than leaving the vial in the refrigerator and having all six doses expire.”

Larger vaccine providers have wasted little vaccine

Other providers have been able to staff clinics and handle walk-in appointments without wasting much vaccine.

Saint Vincent has hosted remote clinics in addition to providing COVID-19 vaccine at the hospital and, recently, at its physician offices and urgent-care centers. It has wasted 894, or 1.3%, of its 70,205 doses.

“Keep in mind that some of those doses weren’t actually wasted,” said Steve Henderson, Saint Vincent’s director of pharmacy. “When you look at the ‘other’ category of wasted doses, it includes unaccountable. The Food & Drug Administration approved six doses out of each Pfizer vial, but they all don’t have six doses in them. If you only got five doses, you had to report one as unaccountable.”

Hamot has kept its percentage of wasted doses low, in part, because it has hosted the vast majority of its vaccination clinics at one location — the UPMC Health Plan Operations Center, 380 E. Bayfront Parkway.

“But we have held remote clinics and we have been very vigilant right from the start,” said Jason Chenault, Hamot’s director of emergency, hospitalist and critical care services. “We maintain a tight focus on doses and how many are scheduled. If we do have additional doses, we reach out to eligible people to administer them.” 

Here is a look at the number and percentage of wasted vaccine doses among Erie County providers who have disposed of at least 200 doses without administering them:

  • Albion Pharmacy — 376 wasted doses, 68.4% of all doses received
  • Adagio Health, Erie and Edinboro offices — 1,695, 59.2%
  • Erie County Prison — 269, 22.8%
  • Millcreek Manor Pharmacy — 1,601, 19.4%
  • Erie County Department of Health — 4,192, 14.4%
  • Millcreek Community Hospital — 1,450, 13.7%
  • Saint Vincent Hospital — 894, 1.3%
  • UPMC Hamot — 384, 0.6%

Statewide, vaccine providers have wasted 0.28% of their doses, according to the state health department.

One way to prevent waste in the future is for the vaccine manufacturers to distribute syringes filled with a single dose of vaccine, Lyon said.

“It’s more expensive to produce, but it would cut down on the waste,” Lyon said.

Contact David Bruce at Follow him on Twitter @ETNBruce.