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Leftover vaccines mean opportunity for Floridians who do not qualify for the shot

COVID vaccine AP
Posted at 4:54 AM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 11:52:06-04

TAMPA, Fla.  — As vaccination efforts expand in Florida, some are on the hunt for leftover doses.

ABC Action News has learned canceled vaccination appointments at a local grocery store are allowing other people who are not currently eligible to recieve a shot.

“I do not qualify,” said Ray Roa. “There was a cancellation, they called me, I showed up.”

It was that easy for the 36-year-old local father.

Roa received his first dose of the Moderna vaccine this week at his neighborhood Winn-Dixie on East Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard in Tampa.

Roa got the tip from his colleague at Creative Loafing, Colin Wolf.

Wolf received his first dose less than 24 hours after being put on the store’s vaccine waste avoidance list.

A staff member at that Winn-Dixie location said they had 12 cancellations on Tuesday, meaning 12 opportunities for other people to get a shot.

“I’m not sure if the state is sending too many vaccines to too many locations and they’re just not getting them out in time but the fact that everybody I know has called the same Winn-Dixie is getting the call, almost immediately, really speaks volumes,” said Wolf.

Health experts agree, no shot should go to waste, even if it means vaccinating people who are not currently eligible under the state’s criteria.

“You want to use the vaccine, you want to get rid of it,” said Dr. Jay Wolfson with USF Health. “So if somebody hasn’t come in, give it to somebody else.”

According to the Florida Department of Health, more than 4,000 doses have gone to waste.

ABC Action News has requested an updated number of wasted shots from state officials, but we have yet to hear back.

“4,000 doses that have to be wasted is a minuscule percentage of all the doses that we have given out,” said Wolfson. “This is inventory management and with the Johnson and Johnson product coming into the marketplace, that’s going to become less and less of an issue. The waste is a consequence of us not being able to maintain the refrigeration level on those Moderna and Pfizer doses.”

ABC Action News reporter Ryan Smith called several Tampa Walmarts to see if they are accepting names on a vaccine waste avoidance list.

Most pharmacies have suspended the list as they wait for additional supply.

A pharmacist who answered at the Gandy Boulevard location said they are accepting names, but the current backlog is five pages long.

ABC Action News checked in with several other vaccine providers in Tampa Bay to learn more about their leftover dose policy.

A Walgreens corporate spokesperson said:

Walgreens is committed to ensuring every dose of COVID-19 vaccine is used. At this time, demand for vaccines outweighs supply, so excess doses are rare. If there are available doses at the end of the day, our pharmacists are embedded in their communities and proactively reach out to eligible customers to offer the vaccine. The CDC provided guidance on excess doses with the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program announcement, which can be found here [cdc.gov].

A spokesperson for Publix said, “We have a process for vaccinating our associates with the end of night doses.”

And Walmart said in a statement:

Eligibility and Waste Avoidance Protocols have been developed in collaboration with state health departments with the shared goal of never letting a dose go to waste. Each vial contains multiple doses, and those doses are administered in accordance with CDC and FDA guidelines.

In the event additional doses from an opened vial are available and there are no scheduled appointments, we turn to individuals, including our associates, who fall within that priority to administer the remaining doses. If no one is available in that priority, where states allow, we move to the next priority.