Walgreens Stocks – Seeking leftover COVID-19 vaccines
LEXINGTON, Ky. – While the COVID-19 vaccine rollout moves ahead across the country, some people are opting to try and skip the long lines and phased signups by waiting around vaccine sites in attempts to get leftover doses.
What You Need To Know
- Some health experts suggest administering vaccines instead of throwing them away
- Partner pharmacies stand by “appointment-only” policy
- Large cities have seen more instances of vaccine-chasing
- Giving vaccines to chasers not technically illegal
These people have become known as “vaccine chasers” and are operating on the assumption that unused vaccines, which are only usable for several hours after being thawed from their subzero storage temperature, will not be thrown away but instead injected into waiting, unvaccinated arms. Relying on word-of-mouth, social media, and new websites that track potential dumps of leftover doses, vaccine chasers are banking on other people not showing up for their appointments or distribution problems so they may have a chance at getting vaccinated. Vaccine chasers tend to be younger, healthy people in a profession that puts their spot at the end of the line, and some, especially in California, have been successful in getting excess and soon-to-expire vaccines.
Lexington-Fayette County Health Department spokesperson Kevin Hall said he is not aware of any widespread attempts at vaccine-chasing at area regional sites, but at least some people in Kentucky have been successful in getting leftover vaccines. The Courier-Journal reported about restaurant owner Andrew Masterson and his wife who heard from a friend the Walgreens at 9702 Westport Road in Louisville had leftover vaccines.
“He called us, and we ran right up,” Masterson told the Courier-Journal. “It was pure luck.”
A Walgreens spokesperson told VICE News the Louisville incident was “an isolated situation,” and clarified walk-ins are not currently accepted.
David Farnsworth, 65, of Lexington, said he has not received the vaccine and has not signed up, but he often checks with his local Walgreens to see if anyone on the list was a no-show.
“I think I already had COVID[-19] back in November of 2019 before anyone knew what it was,” he said. “I’m not really privy to the phases and how Kentucky is rolling this out, so I figure I’ll have a better chance at getting it if I’m just in the right place at the right time.”
A partner pharmacy employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity said people often come in and ask if there are any excess doses available.
“There’s one woman in particular who comes in about every day asking if we have leftover doses,” the employee said. “I always have to say ‘no’ to her and everyone else who asks, but that doesn’t stop them from trying.”
Walgreens spokesperson Emily Delnicki said, in an email response to Spectrum News 1, the company is committed to ensuring every dose of COVID-19 vaccine is used, and with the demand for vaccines outweighing the supply, excess doses are rare.
“In the event there are remaining doses at the end of the day that are due to expire, those doses may be used to vaccinate Walgreens team members who are eligible to receive vaccines as part of the phased plans outlined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and states,” she said. “If there are excess doses beyond that, Walgreens communicates regularly with the state and local jurisdictions to determine next steps for reallocation.”
While many partner pharmacies administer vaccines on an appointment-only basis, giving leftover or expiring doses to vaccine chasers may not be a violation. The CDC supports optimizing the use of all COVID-19 vaccines and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends expanding vaccine availability to broader population groups when vaccine supply at a certain location is in danger of being unused. The CDC recommends pharmacies use this guidance when making plans to ensure no dose is wasted, according to its website.
The success of vaccine chasers getting leftover doses in cities such as Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., has been well documented and Amesh Adjala, a scholar at the John Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Fox News leftover doses should be administered to anyone willing to get the vaccine.
“There should not be any vaccine being put into a trash can,” he said.
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) issued a statement that said, in part, administering excess doses “vary by jurisdiction,” and while some vaccine chases have been successful, the NACDS does not encourage the practice.
Vaccine-chasing is likely the result of the enthusiasm and demand for getting the vaccine far outweighing the supply. Kristie Adkins, a nurse at Appalachian Regional Healthcare’s hospital in South Williamson, Kentucky, said she has yet to encounter any vaccine chasers that show up on-site.
“We have a list of people that are close by if we have ‘angel doses’ and we call them and they come and get their shot,” she said. “We have been pretty lucky that most scheduled have shown up, but out of a day you do still end up with a couple of doses extra, and we haven’t wasted one, thankfully.”
While not encountering vaccine chasers in person, Adkins added that people still seem extremely motivated to get on the list, saying she gets text messages every day from people asking about getting vaccines.
“I just give their information to the scheduler,” she said.
The University of Kentucky and UK HealthCare officials addressed would-be chasers, saying people should only show up at Kroger Field if they have an appointment for a vaccine and walk-in appointments will not be accommodated, nor will people coming on a day they are not scheduled.
“We know the level of anxiety and anticipation that exists about the virus and the hope that vaccines represent,” said Dr. Ashley Montgomery-Yates, UK HealthCare’s assistant chief medical officer for inpatient service and one of the project leads for the vaccine clinic. “But the quickest way to vaccinate the most people in our community is to follow the rules and procedures that have been established.”
Dr. Philip Almeter, chief pharmacist at UK HealthCare and a project lead at the clinic, said it takes hours early each morning for a pharmacy team to prepare doses for each day at the clinic. The number of doses match the number of people scheduled in advance for that given day.
“Given the refrigeration and storage needs of the vaccines, we don’t prepare extra doses each day. We prepare what is necessary for those who are scheduled,” Almeter said. “It is critical that people show up on the day they are scheduled at the appropriate check-in time. We can’t take walk-ins.”
Walgreens Stocks – Seeking leftover COVID-19 vaccines
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