CVS, Walgreens responsible for most wasted COVID-19 vaccine doses

A Moderna COVID-19 vaccine vial.
(Image credit: Reuters/Eileen Meslar)

CVS and Walgreens are behind most of the wasted COVID-19 vaccine doses in the United States, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows.

As of late March, three months after the vaccination rollout began, 182,874 wasted COVID-19 vaccine doses were reported in the U.S., Kaiser Health News reports. Combined, CVS and Walgreens — companies that were part of the early efforts to get residents of long-term care facilities vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines — wasted almost 128,500 doses.

Both of the vaccines have to be stored at extremely cold temperatures, with Pfizer having a shelf life of six hours and Moderna a shelf life of 11 hours. Many of the doses were wasted due to storage errors, like freezer malfunctions, or because they were left out too long.

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CVS reported almost half of all wasted vaccines, and spokesperson Michael DeAngelis told Kaiser Health News that there were "issues with transportation restrictions, limitation on redirecting unused doses, and other factors. Despite the inherent challenges, our teams were able to limit waste to approximately one dose per onsite vaccination clinic."

Many experts criticized CVS and Walgreens for their slow approach to vaccinating long-term care residents and staffers, and Dr. Michael Wasserman, immediate past president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine, told Kaiser Health News the wasted doses "ultimately correlates with just poor planning. CVS and Walgreens didn't have a clue when it came to interacting with nursing homes. Missed opportunities for vaccination in long-term care invariably results in deaths."

The CDC did not collect data from 15 states or the District of Columbia, meaning the true number of wasted doses might be much higher, Kaiser Health News notes.

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.