Health department investigating after 1,315 doses of COVID-19 vaccines tossed out

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County Health Department officials say their goal is not to waste any doses of the COVID-19 vaccines. However, they had to throw out 1,315 doses of the lifesaving shot last week.

Health Officer Bruce Randolph said they’re working with the Tennessee Department of Health to figure out what happened.

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But he said no-shows at vaccine sites are a reoccurring issue, and it’s often caused by people signing up for multiple appointments at multiple sites.

Randolph said once the vaccine is thawed out and measured into the syringe, staff only have six hours to use it before the vaccine expires.

“We’re one location expecting 1,000 people because that’s 1000 appointments that’s been taking up, and then we thaw out 1,000, and we look up, and there’s 500. That’s 500 doses that we’re struggling to find an arm to put them in,” said Randolph.

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Commissioner Van Turner said people are eager to get the vaccine, and he believes people will continue booking multiple appointments at various sites. He said a vaccine site just for unused shots could be helpful.

“You know it could be the Benjamin Hooks Library, for instance, which is centrally located and in the middle of the county to create a site where unused vaccines could be sent to, and it’s a 24 hours site,” said Commissioner Turner.

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Randolph said the suggestion is a good one, but it may not be feasible because of staffing and supply challenges, but he said there are other ways to streamline the process.

“We will work with it to see if we can limit when you make one appointment at one place; that’s it,” said Randolph.

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