This story has been updated with a new statement from Rite Aid.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – A Sacramento public health worker is looking for answers from Rite Aid after she was told by several pharmacists they throw away their extra COVID-19 vaccines.
Curiosity turned into complete shock for a public health worker who called the Rite Aid pharmacy off of Watt Avenue to see if they had any extra doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The worker spoke to FOX40 under the condition of anonymity.
“‘She said, ‘Well, again, we’re only vaccinating people 65 and older,’ so I said, ‘Well, do you just mean you’re going to throw them away at the end of the night?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, we just throw them away,'” the worker told FOX40.
She called another Rite Aid off of Norwood Avenue to see if they would have a different answer.
“They basically confirmed the same thing,” the health worker said. “They said they didn’t have vaccine leftover but if they did, they can only go to someone 65 and older.”
Rite Aid currently accepts appointments for those in California’s Phase 1A vaccination plan between 10 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. After vaccinating high priority groups first, CDHP policy says they can administer any extra or near-expired doses to lower priority groups, but these frozen doses have to be defrosted with a shelf life of only six hours.
“You know what time you took it out, you know how long you have, you know you’ve allocated for as many appointments as you have for the day and so it’s very obvious that people aren’t showing up for it,” the worker said.
According to the CDC, all COVID vaccine providers are required to report the number of doses that have been unused or expired each day. A policy that is not regularly enforced.
COVID-19 vaccines are also becoming more scarce after recent winter weather affected supply rollout.
“To me, I just don’t think that’s right,” the worker told FOX40. “If you know this vaccine expires at 8, then maybe around 7:15, 7:30, you can go out in the aisles and say, ‘Hey, we have some leftover vaccine that would otherwise be thrown out. Would you like it?’ There needs to be a better effort on Rite Aid’s part in getting people vaccinated.”
The worker said trashing vaccines that haven’t expired is “unacceptable.”
Rite Aid responded to FOX40’s request for comment with a written statement:
Given that the current approved COVID-19 vaccinations have a limited shelf-life, should there be any additional doses available on any day due to missed appointments or other situations, Rite Aid is following CDC waste protocol.
On Sunday, a Rite Aid spokesperson gave FOX40 an updated statement:
Our primary goal is to administer COVID-19 vaccines to as many people as possible to help end the pandemic. Rite Aid has not thrown away COVID-19 vaccine doses, and there is no data to indicate that doses have been wasted. If there is an open vial with remaining doses set to expire, our protocol is for each store to maintain a call list of customers with high risk health condition and offer the vaccine to these individuals. The list uses CDC guidance for the most vulnerable individuals. If we exhaust the initial list of high risk individuals, we move to a lower tier of eligibility based on local eligibility criteria. This protocol has proven successful in assuring no vaccines go to waste. To be clear, we do not dispose of available doses; rather, we assure vaccines get to those that need them.