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CVS and Walgreens, two drugstore chains that have worked with the federal government to administer COVID-19 vaccines, have wasted more doses than most states combined, according to government data obtained by Kaiser Health News.

Why is this important: The wasted doses raise questions about the effectiveness of the vaccine deployment, especially as the United States begins to send additional doses to India and other countries hit by COVID.

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In numbers: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 182,874 wasted doses at the end of March, according to KHN.

  • CVS accounted for almost half of the doses, while Walgreens was responsible for 21% – nearly 128,500 wasted injections in total.

  • Pfizer accounted for almost 60% of wasted doses.

The other side: Walgreens did not immediately return Axios’ request for comment, but CVS spokesperson Mike DeAngelis said in an emailed statement that the waste is the product of “transportation restrictions, redirection of unused doses and other factors “.

  • “Despite the inherent challenges, our teams were able to limit the waste to around one dose per on-site vaccination clinic,” he added.

“Vaccine waste in our retail stores is extremely limited, accounting for less than 0.1% of the vaccine doses we have administered at retail, so less than 1 in 1000 has been wasted.”


  • A spokesperson for the CDC said “a higher percentage of all waste would not be expected,” given that early vaccination efforts depended heavily on the two pharmacies, KHN reports.

Another caveat: KHN’s findings are based on CDC data which does not include reports from 15 states, DCs, and several U.S. territories.

The big picture: The United States has administered more than 247 million vaccines, according to the CDC.

  • Experts say it’s important to track wasted doses to help identify where authorities might need to make distribution adjustments, per KHN.

  • All waste is essentially “thrown away [taxpayer] money in the chute, ”Bruce Y. Lee, professor of health policy and management at the City University of New York, told KHN.

  • Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have a limited shelf life.

The bottom line: “One thing is clear: months after the start of the national immunization campaign, the CDC has a limited vision of how much vaccine is going to be wasted, where it is wasted and who is wasting it, which potentially complicates efforts to direct doses where they are needed most, ”writes KHN.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with comment from DeAngelis.

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