BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s problem of wasted COVID-19 vaccine shots continues to balloon, with about 224,000 doses thrown out across the state as health providers can’t find enough residents willing to roll up their sleeves.
The number of trashed doses has nearly tripled since the end of July, even as Louisiana grappled with a fourth, deadly surge of the coronavirus pandemic during that time that led to increased interest in the vaccines.
The latest data provided to The Associated Press by the Louisiana Department of Health showed 223,918 doses of the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been thrown out.
That’s relatively small compared to the 4.4 million vaccine doses administered around the state. But while waste is not uncommon in mass immunization efforts, the throwing away of doses in the United States comes as millions of people around the globe still are waiting for the opportunity to get inoculated against the COVID-19 illness caused by the coronavirus.
Most of Louisiana’s wasted vaccine doses happened because vials containing the shots were opened, but hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and other providers couldn’t find someone to take the doses, said health department spokesperson Kevin Litten.
More than 21,500 shots simply weren’t used before their expiration dates.
Another nearly 50,000 doses of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are set to expire within the next month, but Litten said the state expects to hand out those shots before that.
Louisiana has one of the nation’s lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data that shows only five states have lower immunization rates. More than 2.1 million people in Louisiana — about 46% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the health department.