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More than 55K vaccines gone unused in Virginia

More than half of Virginians are fully vaccinated, but thousands of doses of the vaccine still go unused according to state data.

NORFOLK, Va. — Tens of thousands of vaccine doses have gone unused in the state of Virginia.

In the commonwealth, more than 50 percent of Virginians are fully vaccinated, and nearly 61 percent of the population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

But, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health, there are still doses not making their way into patients' arms.

The following are totals from VDH outlining the number of unused vaccine doses among all FDA emergency authorized vaccines:

  • Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc (J&J): 4,442
  • Moderna Tx: 27,296
  • Pfizer: 24,171
  • Grand Total: 55,909

At the local level, some say they're seeing a decreased demand at small scale vaccination efforts. 

“Right now we’re averaging 6-10 people per day," Dr. Anna Peoples, owner of the independent Peoples Pharmacy, said.

Each vial holds several doses of the respective vaccines. The Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines hold six doses per vial, while the Moderna holds 15, according to Dr. Peoples.

Peoples Pharmacy offers all three vaccines to patients looking for their shot.

Dr. Peoples says because supply currently outweighs demand, doses often get discarded because there aren't enough patients in a day to receive all of the vaccine doses in an individual vial. 

“It doesn’t surprise me, with the chance in the amount of people getting the vaccine. What you have to realize is a lot of it is wasted because we have an ample supply, but we’re not always able to give the total amount of doses in that vial," Dr. Peoples said.

On average, 5-12 doses per day go unused at Peoples Pharmacy alone. Virginia wants to shrink the number of wasted shots.

“It’s kind of like a dating website," Dr. Stephanie Wheawill with the state's Small Shipment Redistribution Program said. "We’re trying to match providers with other providers.”

This Spring, the department launched SSRP as a way to make sure surpluses of the vaccine didn't go to waste, by reallocating doses from providers across the state to where they'd be better used. 

In 10 weeks, the program has helped redistribute more than 40,000 doses of the vaccine across Virginia, which may have become at risk of being wasted as surplus, according to VDH officials. 

Dr. Wheawill says the program allows smaller providers to request an appropriate number of vaccines, as opposed to being stuck with too many to use.

"We're able to take those and break them [vaccine shipments] down, the smallest amount a provider can order is literally one vial," Dr. Wheawill says. 

In Virginia, more than 9 million total doses have been administered. 

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