I-Team uncovers hundreds of vaccine doses wasted across the Bay Area, state has yet to release data

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Hundreds of vaccine doses have been wasted across the Bay Area and the state isn't tracking the data to ensure waste management procedures are being followed, according to an ABC7 I-Team investigation.

At least 631 vaccine doses have been thrown out across four Bay Area counties following reports of dropped syringes, chipped vials, or due to vials opened without enough appointments to match the supply, according to a records request.

Tracking dose waste in the Bay Area

Since vaccine distribution launched in December, the following counties have been tracking dose wastage.

As of Friday:

  • Santa Clara County reported wasting: 292 doses

  • Contra Costa County reported wasting: 180 doses

  • Sonoma County reported wasting: <100 doses

  • San Mateo County reported wasting: 60 doses

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Since the coronavirus started spreading across the globe in late 2019, scientists have been looking for a vaccine. Now that vaccines are proven, it will ultimately be up to each state to determine who will get the vaccine, and when?

ABC7's data analysis found these numbers are extremely small in comparison, representing less than one percent of the total number of vaccinations administered in each county.

Alameda and Napa counties reported zero waste since December.
Meanwhile, San Francisco, Solano, and Marin counties told the I-Team "data is currently unavailable."

"We still need to be cautious until we reach herd immunity," said Gov. Gavin Newsom during a Friday press conference after reminding Californians vaccine doses are in short supply.

According to ABC7's COVID-19 vaccine tracker, 8.7 million doses have been delivered across the state as of Friday - nearly 77 percent of that supply have been used. That leaves more than 2 million doses potentially waiting in freezers reserved for second shots.

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The ABC7 I-Team wants to know how many of those doses have been wasted.

"We need full transparency," Newsom said.

Yet, the state isn't tracking that information on the COVID19.CA.GOV website.
ABC7 reached out to the California Department of Public Health for clarification. After multiple calls and emails raising the question, our team received a response stating: "We are looking into it."

"It's really easy to plan this stuff when you have it all controlled in a handful of large centers," said Dr. George Rutherford, UCSF's lead epidemiologist. "It's when you start waiting out deep into the community, doing pop-up campaigns...it's going to be a little unpredictable there... there's bound to be some wastage."

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ABC7 spoke with Lizelle Lirio de Luna who oversees San Mateo County's vaccination program.

"We have zero waste now," de Luna said.

"What lessons did you learn early on about limiting dose waste?" ABC7's Stephanie Sierra asked.

"We maybe didn't have as tight of control on the inventory and more vials were open then should have been."

The county was quick to flag that problem in early January. De Luna's team now uses modeling data from previous clinics to estimate proper vaccine supply based on the number of confirmed appointments.

"We know how much we have on hand and how much we should be thawing at any given point in time, so that we're not overly thawing any doses," she said.

The question is are counties across the state following suit?

The ABC7 I-Team is still waiting for a response from the California Department of Public Health.

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