15 Million COVID Vaccine Doses Discarded in the Past Six Months

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 372.1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the United States since vaccinations began late last year.

About 175 million people–52.7% of the total U.S. population–are fully vaccinated.

Approximately 205.9 million62%–have received at least one dose.

But while vaccines dosages have slightly increased, not enough people have received the vaccine in time to prevent the Delta variant from mutating and becoming the dominant COVID strain.

This has led to many school districts, businesses, and government offices to re-impose mask mandates.

Some businesses are finally requiring proof of vaccination to enter.

A few places, like New Jersey and New York, are now mandating teachers be vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID testing.

Resistance remains strong, particularly among registered republicans.

While we here in America bicker back and forth about “personal freedoms” and fallacious false comparisons to Nazi Germany, new data from the CDC reports pharmacies and state governments have thrown away at least 15.1 million vaccine doses since March 1.

That’s at least.

It’s likely an undercount.

The state that discarded the most, 500,000 doses: Texas–one of seven (republican-led) states that banned mask mandates in schools and outlawed abortion.

And what isn’t being thrown out might be simply expiring.

Pharmacies and other vaccine providers reported to the CDC that the at least 4.4 million wasted doses in June and 4.7 million in July totaled more than those wasted in March, April and May combined.

Meanwhile poorer nations can’t get enough vaccines.

Indian television journalist and author, Barkha Dutt, commented in an interview with Democracy Now! last month:

“When we watch what’s happening in the U.S.…it is astounding that people who have access to vaccines are choosing not to get jabbed. It’s anti-science. It’s self-indulgent. It’s a very first-world white privilege.”

Associate professor of global health law at University of Warwick in England, Sharifah Sekalala, an expert in infectious disease inequalities, added:

“It’s really tragic that we have a situation where vaccines are being wasted while lots of African countries have not had even 5 percent of their populations vaccinated. A lot of the global south is unvaccinated. The African continent is still below 10 percent, and that’s just a huge inequality and it’s really problematic.”

Not all discarded doses are tossed out due to expiration or lack of demand.

While cracked vials, diluting errors, and freezer issues are also contributing factors, they don’t obviate the fact that just a little over half the richest country in the history of the world is vaccinated for COVID nearly a year after the vaccine was approved for emergency use and has now received full approval.

That doesn’t seem to matter to some people.

Demand would address the most prevalent reason for vaccine disposal–the race against the clock once vials containing multiple doses are punctured.

There appears to be a slight improvement, though.

A slight improvement.

Although the U.S. wasted at least 3.8 million doses just last month, demand also increased.

According to NBC News:

“The number of doses that went to waste is a small fraction of the more than 438 million doses that were distributed in the country as of Tuesday [Aug 31] and the 111.7 million additional doses the U.S. had given to other countries as of Aug. 3.”

While it looks as though COVID-19 in now endemic and we will just have to start accepting its presence in our lives for the foreseeable future, getting vaccinated is the best way to protect ourselves from its variants, even if the vaccine isn’t 100-percent effective against them.

Dr. Anthony Fauci explained:

“Remember, even when you have variants that do diminish somewhat the efficacy of vaccines, the vaccines still are quite effective against variants of that time.”

Which brings us to the “mu” variant, the “variant of interest” currently concerning the World Health Organization (WHO).

As Salon recently reported:

“Variants of concern are regarded as a top priority because they are more immunity-resistant, contagious or deadly than other strains. Currently the WHO considers four strains to meet those criteria: alpha, beta, gamma and delta (the variant most prevalent in the United States).”

Could the mu variant be the next dominant strain?

Could it eventually lead to one that could render the current vaccine impotent?

Image credit: Hakan Nural via Unsplash

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.