THURSDAY, Sept. 2, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- At least 15 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been thrown away in the United States since March 1, government data shows.
That's a far greater amount than previously known, but it is still just a small fraction of the total doses administered in this country, according to NBC News.
The data is self-reported by pharmacies, states and other vaccine providers, but does not include some states and federal providers, and it also does not explain the reasons doses were thrown away, NBC News reported.
Four national pharmacy chains each reported more than 1 million wasted doses, led by Walgreens with 2.6 million, the most of any pharmacy, state or other vaccine provider, followed by CVS (2.3 million), Walmart (1.6 million) and Rite Aid (1.1 million), NBC News reported.
There are numerous reasons why doses may be marked as wasted, from a cracked vial or an error diluting the vaccine to a freezer malfunction to more doses in a vial than people who want them. A wastage report can also happen when a vial contains fewer doses than it should, NBC News said.
As of Tuesday, 438 million doses have been distributed in the United States, while an additional 111.7 million doses have been sent to other countries since Aug. 3, NBC News reported.
The data was released as many countries struggle to get COVID-19 vaccines.
"It's really tragic that we have a situation where vaccines are being wasted while lots of African countries have not had even 5% of their populations vaccinated," Sharifah Sekalala, an associate professor of global health law at England's University of Warwick who studies health care inequalities in infectious diseases, told NBC News.
But Kristen Nordlund, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the portion of wasted doses " remains extremely low."
"As access to COVID-19 vaccine has increased, it is important for providers to not miss any opportunity to vaccinate every eligible person who presents at vaccine clinics, even if it may increase the likelihood of leaving unused doses in a vial," Nordlund told NBC News.
Visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for more on COVID vaccines.