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Vermont health department handles more vaccine waste

MONTPELIER, Vermont (WCAX) – As vaccination rates continue to slow, the amount of waste created has doubled.

The Vermont Department of Health says it’s a balance. They try to minimize waste, while still trying to kick ass.

The Department of Health receives a number of doses from the federal government. Unless there are federally qualified pharmacies or a private pharmacy like Kinney or Walgreens, everyone is ordering from the state.

Vaccines can be ordered and shipped directly to major vaccine distributors or central distribution points. In the latter case, vaccines can be reallocated to smaller shipments for those with less need, such as a doctor’s office.

Monica Ogelby, head of the state immunization program, said so far it has been a success in the eyes of the federal government.

“I think a lot of that is because we have a small state, so we can maintain some control,” Ogelby said.

This does not mean that there was no waste. At the height of vaccination, the health department reports about 5% waste. Now it’s about 10%.

Ogelby says the increased waste comes from having to open a new vial for a single dose. Since some vials are only good for six hours, the rest of the doses are discarded.

“The vast majority of the waste that we have experienced is due to the fact that we live in a rural state, and we barnstorm, and we send EMS teams all over the North East Kingdom or different parts of the state. Vermont, and if they find someone who wants to get vaccinated, then we vaccinate them,” Ogelby said.

Ogelby says they are aware that spilled doses end up in landfills, so they are doing their best to manage a public health crisis and the waste.

“It goes into a bag of medical waste, and it gets carried away by medical waste disposal workers. You know, some people put it in a sharps container because it’s glass, but it’s not technically sharp, so it can go in anything you can throw glass in. Then it is put in a landfill. It’s not being sent back to the manufacturer or anything like that,” Ogelby said.

She says they hope the more people get boosted, the more doses will be used. They expect more vaccination appointments now that a second booster has been approved for those aged 50 and over.

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