Vaccinations are now ticking upward in some states; more than 850,000 shots were recorded on Friday, raising the daily national average to more than 650,000 from about 500,000 three weeks ago. Still, more than half of the U.S. population is not fully vaccinated, according to a Times database. That includes children under 12, who are not yet eligible.
“Early on, it was kind of a crisis because people wanted it and couldn’t get it, and now it’s a crisis because we’ve got it and people don’t want it,” said Dr. Marcus Plescia, who represents state health agencies as the chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
Many states have asked about redistributing unused vaccines abroad, but once the doses are shipped out to states, federal regulations prohibit recalling them. And some countries, like Canada, have declined states’ offers of surplus vaccines.
“Here we are with loads of vaccine, and there are other countries in the world where people are desperate for vaccination,” Dr. Plescia said.
Understand the State of Vaccine Mandates in the U.S.
With vaccinations lagging, some state health officials have directed providers in recent months to open a new vial even if some of it goes unused.
“It’s better to give two doses and waste 12 than to leave 14 doses sitting in the freezer,” said Kristen Dillon, a director of the Oregon Health Authority’s Covid-19 Vaccine Planning Unit. Oregon has reported more than 78,000 doses as nonviable, the “vast majority” of which were unused doses from opened vials, officials said.
In Arkansas, where just 36 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, nearly 55,000 doses had gone to waste by mid-July, up from around 580 in mid-March, as officials prioritized vaccinations over saving doses. “If we have the opportunity to give the vaccine, let’s go ahead and do it,” said Robert Ator, a retired National Guard colonel who runs the state’s vaccination effort.