According to data obtained by NBC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that 15 million COVID-19 vaccines have been wasted in the U.S. since March. According to the CDC's report, 7.6 million vaccines were thrown out by various chain pharmacies across the U.S. The remaining vaccines were thrown out by state and independent vaccine providers.
Vaccines can be thrown out for a variety of reasons including cracked vials or an error during the diluting process. Also, a vial can be thrown out if it doesn't contain as many doses as it should.
The CDC's recent report has caught the attention of health officials in other parts of the world. While the United States enjoys an overall vaccination rate of more than 50%, less than 30% of the world is fully vaccinated.
"It's really tragic that we have a situation where vaccines are being wasted while lots of African countries have not had even 5 percent of their populations vaccinated,” Sharifah Sekalala of the University of Warwick told NBC.
"A lot of the global south is unvaccinated. The African continent is still below 10 percent, and that's just a huge inequality and it's really problematic."
The CDC has argued that the amount of vaccines wasted is a small percentage of the total amount of vaccines administered.
“[The percentage of COVID-19 vaccines wasted] remains extremely low, which is evidence of the strong partnership among the federal government, jurisdictions, and vaccine providers to get as many people vaccinated as possible while reducing vaccine wastage across the system," CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund told NBC.
“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.”
Nearly four million COVID-19 vaccines were thrown last month. With COVID-19 booster shots being distributed, there is a potential for more vaccines to be wasted this month.