Providers are failing to submit unused COVID-19 vaccine reports to the state

Posted at 4:08 PM, Mar 29, 2021

PHOENIX — More than three million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered across the state and with eligibility open to those 16 and older, more people are looking to book appointments wherever they can get them.

But, how many of those shots have gone to waste? ABC15 has learned that more than 200 doses expired in a single day at State Farm Stadium.

Wasted vaccine return forms are critical to making sure the distribution of the vaccines are done as carefully as possible. However, officials have said that many providers are not submitting the information to the state in a timely fashion -- or even at all, which could prove to be a costly mistake.

So far, according to officials, 33 wasted or expired vaccine return forms have been submitted to the state since the vaccine began being distributed in Arizona. These forms are supposed to be filled out when any dose of the vaccine goes unused for any variety of reasons.

“You identify ways in which vaccine was wasted, which will happen and then you change your process so that it doesn’t happen again,” said Will Humble, the former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Humble said it's impossible not to have some vaccines go unused, but that these forms help officials improve the process.

In fact, state records show that 228 doses of the Pfizer vaccine went unused or expired overnight on March 18 at the state-run site at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. The reason: a sudden and unexpected increase in no-shows for appointments.

Other reasons for a vaccine to go unused could be broken vials, broken syringes, an expired dose, or a lost or unaccounted vaccine.

“To me, it’s not about OK it was two hundred doses that were wasted, it’s what did you learn from that event,” said Humble.

That is what the state did, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Officials with ADHS said they adjusted the number of doses thawed and drawn into syringes, while also increasing the use of plus-one doses.

Due to the impending summer heat, officials said State Farm Stadium will transition to nights-only on April 4. Currently, it is offering appointments on a 24-hour basis. Once that happens, any unused doses will be sent to other vaccine sites later that morning, ADHS said.

Officials will also open an indoor state-run vaccination site at a Dexcom distribution site on April 5 in Mesa, Arizona.

According to these wasted vaccine reports, a total of 598 doses have gone unused. Data from Pima, Pinal, Coconino, and Maricopa counties were not included in those state reports, however.

ABC15 has learned, however, that 500 doses went unused among Maricopa County's four POD vaccine sites that were setup in February.

"Obviously there needs to be a reminder that those reports are required to be sent in immediately," said Wendy Smith-Reeve, the state's former emergency management director. Smith-Reeve resigned from her position last year. She was later hired by ABC15 as an expert analyst.