INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana health officials have counted about 62,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines being tossed out in recent months as the number of people seeking the shots has fallen drastically.
That is about 1% of the some 6 million vaccine shots that have been given in Indiana since they first became available in December, but a sign of the struggle that officials face in raising the state’s vaccination rate.
The state health department said vaccine doses can go unused by reaching their expiration date or a vial breaking and that officials knew eventually vaccine supply would outstrip demand.
“We are taking every action possible to minimize wastage, including urging providers to use doses with the nearest expiration dates first and encouraging Hoosiers to get vaccinated if they are eligible,” the agency said in a statement. “In addition, we have been working with healthcare providers to allow them to order small batches of vaccine to have in their offices for patients and have increased the number of mobile vaccination clinics we are deploying across the state.”
States across the country have been trying to salvage expiring shots amid the summer surge in infections tied to the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.
About 45% of Indiana residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the 16th lowest rate among the states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Indiana’s vaccination rate has fallen from about 50,000 a day in April to about 10,000 a day in recent weeks. The state health department reported Indiana hospitals were treating 1,744 COVID-19 patients as of Thursday — a 22% increase in one week and quadruple the number from mid-July.
The agency on Friday also added 14 recent coronavirus-related deaths to the state’s toll, giving Indiana 14,228 confirmed or probably COVID-19 fatalities during the pandemic. Indiana’s seven-day rolling average of deaths has jumped to 11 a day after it had fallen to two a day a month ago.
Joe Gries, the health department director in Evansville’s Vanderburgh County, said residents hesitant about getting vaccinated should seek out reliable sources of information, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“If you’re on social media, or if you’re listening to less-than-reputable sources, it’s not quality information,” Gries said.
Distributing vaccine doses so that few go to waste is complex as the vaccines must be stored at different temperatures and vary on how long they can be used after a vial has been unfrozen, said Jason LeMaster, the heath department administrator for Hamilton County in suburban Indianapolis.
The state’s number of wasted vaccine doses seemed low compared to the 3 million resident who’ve been fully vaccinated, he said.
“No one wants to lose any because it’s precious,” LeMaster said. “It’s a precious commodity, and we want it in arms more than we would want to lose it.”