Stories are leaking out across the country of spare COVID-19 vaccine doses getting thrown out or given to an ineligible person who happened to be walking by.
With the Moderna vaccine, this happens after the vaccine vial has been pierced and the clinician giving shots has six hours to use up the 10 doses per vial.
Charlotte County came up with a system to use up those doses before the dilemma could happen, Health Chief Joe Pepe told The Daily Sun Tuesday.
Moderna vaccine arrives at minus 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The vaccine site thaws out the number it will need, and those thawed vials are good for up to a month, Pepe said. A clinic can store the vaccine in a regular refrigerator for that time.
But once they start injecting the vaccine, they have to pierce the vial. There are supposed to be 10 doses of 3 milliliters, but sometimes there’s only 9, Pepe said. Sometimes, there’s 11.
They can’t mix a half dose from one vial and a half dose from another, he said, but they can give out the 11th dose in a vial, or a dose for someone who did not show up.
Every day the county has been offering vaccines, people show up without an appointment, hoping for an extra, Pepe said. But the extras are already accounted for.
The county has a list of seniors and otherwise vulnerable people who are home bound. Those people have agreed to be available for these unpredictable doses.
At the end of the day of vaccine administration, if the county has extra doses, they have local emergency medical paramedic teams that have volunteered to take the dose to whoever is on the list, Pepe said.
“That’s where our paramedics have been amazing,” Pepe said. “I’m really proud of that program.”
The homebound are grateful, he said.
“What I’m hearing is that the people are crying, they’re so appreciative that we called them.”
In this way, Charlotte County’s Department of Health has not had to throw out any doses, he said.
Would he give it to an ineligible person? Someone who is young and healthy and not a health care worker, for example?
Pepe said he would not need to break the protocol set by the state and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which has made people 65 and older the priority along with health care workers.
But he could if he needed to, according to Alex Azar, U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services.
According to the Washington Post, Azar said: “It’s more important to get people vaccinated than to perfectly march though each prioritized group.”