NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — When Kelly Brennan went to run a quick errand at Walgreens, she wasn’t expecting to receive her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
As she was shopping, the 30-year-old Portsmouth resident was told there were six left over doses that needed to be used before they spoiled, and none of the pharmacy’s patients were immediately available.
“It was literally one of those times, where I was just walk into the right place at the right time,” she said. “It happened super quickly. I really didn’t have time to think about it.”
This coincidentally happened the same day she became eligible to receive the vaccine, since she’s a teacher.
But the tricky part, she said, is scheduling her second dose. Based on the circumstances, the pharmacy told her it’s her responsibility to make an appointment for her second shot.
“I just hope I’m able to get the second dose scheduled,” she said.
A spokesperson for Walgreen’s said excess doses are rare, but if there are remaining doses available that are set to expire, they “may be used to vaccinate Walgreen’s team members who are eligible.”
“If there are excess doses beyond that, Walgreens communicates regularly with the state and local jurisdictions to determine next steps for reallocation,” spokesperson Alexandra Brown said.
Walgreens didn’t respond to questions on whether leftover doses are offered to customers.
As for CVS Health, a spokesperson said if there are unused doses, they determine how to most efficiently vaccinate eligible individuals with what’s left.
“This includes vaccinating our own essential frontline workers and outreaching to patients in their communities, as our pharmacies maintain patient profiles with information that can help identify who is eligible to be vaccinated,” spokesperson Matt Blanchette said. “We also empower our pharmacy teams to use their judgment as health care professionals to help ensure every dose of vaccine is used.”
As for state-run clinics, a spokesperson for the Health Department said vaccinators are required to have a waitlist of people who are already registered to get their shot.
“Wasting vaccine is always the last resort, so if a vaccinator cannot administer vaccine to anyone in these categories on their wait list, they can administer the vaccine to anyone who is clinically eligible,” spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said.
Wait lists must be sequenced in specific way:
- Current eligible population first (right now that is people age 65+);
- Prior eligible population second (right now that is groups eligible in Phase one);
- Next eligible group third (right now that is people age 60-64 or age 16-64 with underlying health conditions);
“As clinics are winding down, fewer and fewer vials are opened. At the end of the night, only one vial will be open with unused doses. If someone doesn’t show up for their slot, it is possible that there could still be doses in that last vial,” Wendelken added.