Sunday February 14th 2021
Lingering for vaccine residues
Pick up a syringe quickly when shopping
By Diana Dittmer
A new phenomenon is making itself felt in the USA: “Vaccinespotting” or “Inpflungern”. In times of scarce corona vaccines, people wait in front of pharmacies to catch any leftover doses. That’s not good. The “pushing ahead” of non-vulnerable groups is not the problem.
In January, a video on Tiktok went viral: a young man with a face mask pushes up his shirt sleeve and exposes his left upper arm. A hand with a disposable glove comes into the picture, then a woman in a doctor’s coat holding a syringe. The needle lands in the man’s arm. Plaster on the spot, done! A text that appears explains: “We were in the supermarket today when the pharmacist stopped us. Several vaccine candidates in the first group to receive the Moderna Sars-CoV-2 vaccine missed their appointment. The mRNA- The vaccine won’t last more than a few hours at room temperature, it would have been thrown away. This is a great start to 2021! “
It wouldn’t be worth mentioning if it had been the young man’s turn – apparently a law student, newspapers later discover – to have been vaccinated. But he wasn’t. The scene took place in a giant supermarket in Washington. The student was there with a friend. The pharmacist said that the shop would close in ten minutes and that she had two doses of vaccine left, David MacMillan reported to the US news channel NBC afterwards. “Do you want the vaccine or not?”
He and his friend wanted. By now they should have received the second vaccination. It is a six in the coronavirus lottery, writes Washingtonian magazine. “And yes, theoretically it could happen to you too,” she gives her readers hope. Washington doesn’t want to waste vaccination doses. Therefore, the guidelines state that if in doubt, anyone who is nearby will qualify for a leftover dose – regardless of whether that person belongs to the first vaccination group or not.
What is clear, however, is that the scarce and free vaccine for citizens is currently only intended for older people and members of certain professional groups who are particularly susceptible to the virus. But while those in charge are still discussing how to deal with the vaccine residues at the end of the day, pharmacies and food retailers like Walmart in the USA have apparently long since found their own routine.
Whatever thawed cans are in there will be inoculated to the last drop – regardless of whom. Whether this is fair if the person does not belong to a vulnerable group or to medical staff is secondary. All employees in a shop are asked to be ready.
Between vaccination reason and vaccination wild growth
The approximately 6,500 pharmacies in the USA currently receive 10.5 million vaccine doses per week. Many of these pharmaceutical shops integrated in large supermarkets or at retailers have also become vaccination centers during the pandemic. In order to bring order to the vaccination process, appointments are given that are often sold out within a very short time. The question is, what if these patients fail to show up for their appointed appointments?
There’s a patchwork of state and local regulations. It is difficult to manage waiting lists because customers can often be put on multiple lists – even if they do not qualify for a vaccination at all, it is said. The result is a wild vaccine growth that turns into an opaque jungle when the inoculation of doses to healthy and young citizens who do not belong to a priority occupational group is possibly a criminal offense in a state.
Even though most pharmacists state, according to the “Wall Street Journal”, that they are trying to get additional doses to the “right” recipients, and that they coordinate with the local health authorities, they all seem to try to make clear shipments in the worst case scenario Vaccination dose remains and nonsensically expires. Some vaccinate employees, others just randomly vaccinate people who are nearby.
The US drugstore chain Walgreens and the pharmaceutical retail chain CVS Health, the two largest providers of vaccinations, have admitted to vaccinating leftovers on employees. In some states, they even qualify for it, but this does not apply everywhere. “The bottom line is that we won’t waste a dose,” the Wall Street Journal quoted a CVS spokesman as saying.
Walmart claims to shimmy from one priority to the next if no one from the first vaccination group is available. But even here it says: “If at the end of the day there were still one or two cans left, nobody would waste this precious resource,” as the pandemic officer of the supermarket chain Giant, Voc Vercammen, admits. The law student also struck gold in one of his shops.
What makes sense, however, also has an unwanted side effect. The potential offer at the end of a vaccination day attracts people who are not the usual customers of a store. They just speculate on catching a vaccination out of turn. That they hang around in supermarkets is developing into a problem, says John McGrath of the supermarket chain Ahold Dehaize. It does not help to maintain the rules of distance. The customers would only leave when it was clear that there was no vaccine left. The aim should therefore be to plan each vaccination and to assign appointments.