How many people are vaccinated globally? Here are some statistics – 39.5% of the world population have gotten at least one dose of covid-19 vaccine. It includes only 1.7% of low-income countries.

According to WHO, 50% of vaccines go to waste around the world. Hongkong has an exceeding number of vaccines for the 80% of the population who have not taken vaccines. Reluctance to take vaccines can thus result in a lot of Pfizer vaccine wastage in the country. Around April, almost 1.25 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines went to waste. According to May reports by CDC, around 0.44% of covid-19 doses went waste in the US, which amounts to approximately 1.55 million doses. The acceptable vaccine wastage level differs for different countries based on the local situations and experience in handling vaccines. Though we are doing our best to provide vaccines to all eligible candidates, we know that some vaccine doses might go unused or wasted. Healthcare professionals are concerned since they need to distribute the vaccine equitably across the world.

What though is vaccine wastage? Let’s see the examples of vaccine wastage below –

Vaccine wastage in unopened vials 

1. Expiry: If the vaccines are left unused beyond the expiry date. (Malawi burned around 20000 vaccines that expired)

2. VVM (Vaccine Vial Monitor) indication: ‘WHO’ assigns different VVM categories for vaccines depending on thermostability data. Different VVM categories behave differently under the same cold chain conditions.

3. Heat exposure – Vaccine vials are outside the given temperature range for too long. Digital data loggers (DDL) can help monitor the temperature for the covid-19 vaccine. If DDL indicates that the vaccine is out of the desired temperature range, it goes to waste.

4. Freezing – Vaccines can freeze when exposed to freezing temperatures during transportation or storage.

5. Vaccine breakage during transportation can result in wastage.

6. Vaccine mislabeling win the inventory causes wastage.

Vaccine wastage in opened vials

In addition to the type of vaccine wastage listed previously, here are some more examples of vaccine wastage in opened vials:

1. Discarding remaining doses at the end of the session – Once punctured, the vial is valid only for a few hours. If not used within that time limit, a lot of vaccines go to waste. Once the vial is removed from the freezer or, refrigerator; it goes to waste if left unused until few hours. In the areas where most of the population lives remotely, a higher vaccine wastage rate has to be accepted to achieve higher immunization coverage. The wastage rate is higher when you reach most of the population through outreach services because you open more vials.

2. Drawing number of doses indicated on the label of a vial: Using the wrong type of needles, you can not extract the complete volume of the vaccine. Hence it goes to waste. A single Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine vial contains six doses. If you do not use low dead-volume syringes, the final sixth dose vial will fall short by 0.3 mL volume. You have to throw the vial as you cannot combine vaccines from different vials.

3. Poor reconstitution practices: Using regular syringes rather than AD syringes is improper and unsafe, yet it happens in many countries.

4. Submerging opened vials in water: If the open vials are submerged in the water or removed from the vaccine carrier that has water, it increases the risk of contamination. If failed to follow aseptic procedures, you need to discard the vaccines. You need to monitor the vails for any discoloration, foreign particles and discard them if necessary.

Identifying the waste

On a serious note, though vaccine wastage is a concerning matter, it is a must to discard the vaccines when necessary to provide patient safety. It also increases the effectiveness of the vaccine. We have seen a few reasons for vaccine wastage that concern patient safety. However, there is still a lot of scopes to reduce vaccine wastage. We are waiting to share with you a few tips on vaccine wastage management in our next article. Keep reading!

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