LMH Health, Heartland and health department share process for ensuring no COVID-19 vaccine doses go unused
photo by: Associated Press
Story updated at 3:26 p.m. Tuesday:
Local vaccine distributors have processes in place to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines don’t go unused at the end of their vaccination clinics.
LMH Health, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health and Heartland Community Health Center said that if doses remained at the end of a clinic, their strategy was to contact Phase 1 or Phase 2 candidates who have yet to be vaccinated.
Autumn Bishop, a spokesperson for LMH Health, said that for the last appointments of the day at the hospital, “team members draw up doses on demand, rather than in advance.” Then, if there are still unused doses at the conclusion of a clinic, the team will contact Phase 1 candidates who have not been vaccinated or Phase 2 patients who are scheduled to receive vaccines in subsequent days.
Ensuring no doses go unused is especially important because of the short shelf-life of COVID-19 vaccines. Once vials of the vaccine are pulled out of the freezers, they cannot be put back in, Bishop said, but they can be refrigerated. The Pfizer vaccine is good for five days in a refrigerator, and the Moderna vaccine is good for 30 days.
That is only if the vials have not been punctured, however. Once punctured, both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are good for only six hours. Vials of the Pfizer vaccine typically include six doses, although it can vary from five to seven, Bishop said. Vials of the Moderna vaccine include 10 doses.
LMH Health spokesperson Amy Northrop said that the hospital had used all doses allotted to it by the health department except for five doses that were lost because of syringe malfunctions or failures. The health department and Heartland said they have not had doses go unused.
Karrey Britt, a spokesperson for Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health, said the health department always has a standby plan for using any leftover doses at the conclusion of mass vaccination clinics, which includes contacting Phase 1 or Phase 2 candidates who have not yet been vaccinated. In some instances, the health department may contact groups such as law enforcement, education or food service to alert them that there are more doses available. Then, the groups can reach out to their employees.
“Public health is committed to doing all it can to avoid contacting people at the last minute,” Britt said.
Britt also said that if necessary the health department would conduct a second clinic to administer remaining vaccines. A second clinic was held on Friday at the Lied Center, she said, to administer remaining doses. In addition to providing an opportunity to administer additional doses — Britt said 182 doses were given out that day — the Lied Center clinic also helped the health department test the delivery of vaccines in an indoor environment.
Robyn Coventon, chief executive officer at Heartland Community Health Center, said that a primary reason no doses have been wasted at Heartland was clear and timely communication — “whatever the hour” — between Heartland and other Unified Command agencies.
“We are provided with a list of randomized names for our vaccine allotment and are able to schedule from that list,” Coventon wrote in an email to the Journal-World. “Should additional names be necessary to ensure that all doses are administered, the list does contain a few extra names who are on standby to receive the doses.”
As of Feb. 11, 11,892 first doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in Douglas County, and 1,716 second doses had been administered. The Journal-World has asked Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health to provide updated vaccine distribution numbers every Friday.