1,400 thrown away: Why Ohio COVID vaccine providers have had to discard doses

Coronavirus
This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

(WCMH) — More than 1,400 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in Ohio have had to be thrown away.

After reporting last month that roughly 1,300 doses were reported as “unusable” by providers, our sister station WCMH obtained via public records request to the Ohio Department of Health a list of each provider that has reported unusable vaccine doses.

ODH’s list shows 1,405 unusable doses from 46 vaccine providers. Sixteen providers were in central or southeast Ohio and accounted for roughly 1,100 unusable doses. 890 of those doses were from now-suspended provider SpecialtyRx.

A dose is considered unusable if — for any reason — the provider is unable to administer it to a patient. Ohio requires coronavirus vaccine providers to report the number of unused doses to the state.

Dr. Andrew Thomas, Chief Clinical Officer at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, said small amounts of unusable vaccine are typical in medical settings.

“I can’t imagine that other hospitals haven’t had someone drop a syringe, or have a needle be bent, or have a leaky syringe,” he said.

OSU Wexner reported nine unusable doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, compared to roughly 33,000 administered. The more than 1,400 unusable doses statewide is equal to just over 0.1% of the nearly 1 million doses shot into arms in Ohio so far.

Thomas said all nine doses were the result of either dropped or malfunctioning syringes. NBC4 Investigates reached out to the other 15 providers in our viewing area, and several had similar explanations.

The Delaware General Health District reported two unusable doses. A spokesperson said both were the result of bent needles.

The Union County Health Department also reported two unusable doses. One, a spokesperson said, was due to a syringe malfunction. The other was the result of a patient moving when pricked by the needle. The nurse had to load up a new dose for that patient because the original dose was not fully injected, the spokesperson said.

While the ODH document said the Licking County Health Department reported four unusable doses, Licking County health officials told NBC4 Investigates that there was a reporting error, and they had not thrown away any vaccine doses. The official said they were working with ODH to correct the error.

Mount Carmel Health reported 11 unusable doses. Spokesperson Samantha Irons said some were due to “safety issues,” such as a malfunctioning syringe. Others, she said, were wasted because they could not be administered before they expired.

“That said, we know that even one dose wasted is still too many, and we are constantly reviewing and changing our vaccination process to ensure we avoid unusable doses,” Irons said.

While the ODH document said Franklin County Public Health had reported 17 unusable doses, FCPH spokesman Zach Watson said as of Thursday evening the agency reported 29 unusable doses. Watson said most were due to malfunctioning or dropped syringes, and contaminated needles. None, he said, were lost to expiration or temperature issues.

Watson added that FCPH nurses extracted 362 extra doses from vials that contained excess vaccine.

Shriver’s Pharmacies, a chain with seven locations in southeast Ohio, reported 90 unusable doses. Multiple messages left for Shriver’s executives were not returned.

The majority of unusable doses in Ohio were reported by SpecialtyRx, a New Jersey-based company with a location in Columbus, which lost 890 doses in January because the storage temperature was not properly monitored. ODH has since suspended SpecialtyRx as a vaccine provider.

Calls and emails to the company’s headquarters were not returned.

Cynthia Rosi contributed reporting.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

FOX 8 Cleveland Weather // Quick Links:

Hot on FOX 8

More Viral

Download the FOX 8 weather app