With pharmacies and groceries across the U.S. preparing to dispense Covid-19 vaccines to the public, their workers and customers are wondering what happened to extra doses left unused at the end of the day.
Some 6,500 pharmacies across all 50 states, including those at CVS Health Corp., Walmart Inc., and regional grocers, would get 1 million doses from the federal government starting Thursday.
While the Covid-19 shots came free of cost, customers who are eligible under state rules need to get an appointment with pharmacies, wws.wsj.com reported.
Pharmacies face the dilemma of what to do with extra shots, as they expire within hours of removal from cold storage and might end up being unused in case people were to not turn up for appointments or if vials contained more doses than required.
Pharmacies To Get 1 Million Covid-19 Vaccine Doses
Pharmacies need to meet both customers and their own employees’ demand and need to go by state and local rules that might exclude vaccination of those who do not meet current eligibility requirements.
Maintaining waitlists also came with its challenges as customers could register for more than one list or try to book appointments without meeting state guidelines.
Rules for vaccine eligibility differ from state to state, and additionally, there are guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to follow. In some places, vaccine providers could face penalties for inoculating persons not meeting eligibility requirements. However, those rules are generally relaxed for the use of spare doses that would otherwise expire, according to retailers and state guidelines.
Approaches to extra doses by retail pharmacies differ, with some saying they would give priority to their employees while others say they would try to find takers among the public and vaccinate employees as a last resort, if at all. Most companies say they would coordinate with local health officials to ensure additional doses went to the right recipients.
According to CVS and Walgreens, who would be the two biggest retail vaccine providers, they had already been vaccinating employees in small numbers with leftover doses that were set to expire and planned to continue as they vaccinated more broadly.
Under some state guidelines, drugstore employees qualify for the vaccine, as they are considered healthcare or front-line workers. But according to companies, leftover doses, in many cases, could also go to workers who would not otherwise qualify, such as cashiers.
A CVS spokesman said the bottom line was; they were not going to let a dose go to waste, www.wsj.com quoted.
According to a spokeswoman, Walmart, which planned to administer federally allocated vaccine doses from stores in 22 states, offered doses that were at risk of spoiling to shoppers or workers who were eligible under state guidelines. Walmart is already administering doses from state supplies in 11 states.
She said they turned to individuals, including their associates, who fell within that priority to administer the remaining doses. If none were available in that priority, where states allowed, they moved to the next priority, she added. In some states, including New York, Illinois, Maryland, and New Mexico, she said retail workers were deemed eligible and, in some cases, stores kept lists of eligible people to call to give excess doses, according to a person familiar with the situation, www.wsj.com reported.
CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Rite Aid Corp. declined information about how many of their workers they had vaccinated so far.
Other retailers preferred to go by waitlists of eligible customers or announced spare doses to shoppers inside the store.
According to Vic Vercammen, the chief pandemic officer at supermarket chain Giant Eagle Inc, if there were one or two doses left at the end of the day, no one was going to waste that precious resource.
According to Florida-based Publix Super Markets Inc, it vaccinated employees aged 65 and older at the end of the night. At the same time, Midwest chain Hy-Vee Inc. said it gave priority to its waitlist of eligible customers but did not currently vaccinate its own employees.
Albertsons Cos. contacts eligible customers if there are extras, but supply shortage is a bigger issue right now, said Omer Gajial, senior vice president of pharmacy and health at the grocer. In a single day, the grocer recently booked appointments for all 90,000 doses it received for the state of Washington.
Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize NV, which owns the Giant and Stop & Shop chains, has provided leftover shots to employees but said it happens rarely.
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Recently, a Giant customer received a leftover dose and posted a video of his experience that went viral.
Shoppers began hanging out in stores in hopes of receiving inoculations at the end of the day, and that became a significant issue for the grocer, said John McGrath, vice president of pharmacy services at Ahold Delhaize’s Retail Business Services.
“That does not help with social distancing,” Mr. McGrath said, adding that people stopped lingering after Giant staff told customers that it had no extra doses. Ahold Delhaize’s goal is to schedule every vaccination and have appointments queued up, he said.
For some chains, waitlists are already proving difficult. Some customers are putting themselves on multiple online waitlists for extra doses, said Charlie Hartig, CEO of Midwest chain Hartig Drug Stores. For now, people can stay on more than one waitlist if they indicate that they are willing to travel for inoculations.