An estimated 15,000 doses of perfectly usable AstraZeneca vaccines have been thrown away by clinics and hospitals despite a shortage of coronavirus vaccines here.
Each AstraZeneca vaccine vial contains 11 doses that must be used within six hours of opening, and if there are no further takers on any given day they have to be thrown away. According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, 1,613 vials or about 15,000 doses have been thrown away so far.
A doctor in Gyeonggi Province said, “I’m trying to reduce the amount of vaccines we discard as much as possible. but I had to throw one dose away on Wednesday because there was nobody on the waiting list.”
If each of some 14,000 vaccination centers nationwide has one dose a day left over, as many doses are thrown away daily.
In the beginning of the vaccination drive, many Koreans who did not fall into the age bracket that was being inoculated at the time rushed to book leftover vaccines using an app, but now there does not seem to be much interest. On Wednesday, many clinics advertised on leftover vaccines on Naver’s or Kakao’s booking apps, but there were few takers.
Since Aug. 5, when vaccination for 1.27 million people aged 60-74 who had not been inoculated earlier kicked off, their leftover AstraZeneca vaccines could only be given to people over 50. But people in their 50s are already being given Pfizer or Moderna vaccines since July 26, and those over 75 are also being given Pfizer vaccines.
The government’s failure to grasp the situation is increasing waste. People in their 50s who already got their first AstraZeneca shots are currently prevented from receiving leftover vaccines for their second jab even if they want them.
One 55-year-old man who got his first AstraZeneca shot on June 16 wanted to get a second from leftover AstraZeneca doses ahead of his scheduled booking on Sept. 1 for personal reasons but was refused. A clinic staffer told him that authorities are barring those who already had their first shot from receiving leftover vaccines.
This was originally intended to make sure that more people could get their first jab, but since there has been no great demand for the leftovers, the restriction is now pointless.
Doctors urge the government to shorten the interval between doses of mRNA vaccines, where possible to prevent waste. Earlier, when there was a setback in Moderna supplies, authorities decided to extend the interval between two shots of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to six weeks.
But doctors are calling for a rethink as the Delta variant spreads by allowing vaccination centers to give second shots to people three to four weeks after their first dose if leftovers are available.
Meanwhile, the daily tally of coronavirus infections stood at 1,990 as of Friday morning.
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