LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said Thursday that she has not heard of any cases of COVID-19 vaccine doses being thrown away at this point, but said she and her colleagues want to make sure it does not happen.
“It would be criminal if we found any doses that were thrown in a garbage bin behind one of these clinics,” she said.
The concern came after she heard that workers at the Men’s Health Foundation Clinic in Inglewood thought they were supposed to toss unused doses. She said she was told that the clinic held a vaccination clinic, but ended up with extra doses after some of those who signed up failed to show.
But, instead of tossing the expiring doses, she said the clinic contacted people not on the priority list and vaccinated them instead — which the workers thought was against the guidelines provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Health.
Hahn said they actually did the right thing.
“What I think causes the confusion is that we haven’t been clear enough in communicating with all these clinics and hospitals and CVSs and vaccination sites, that indeed never throw away a dose,” she said. “Always find an arm to put that dose in.”
According to Public Health, only people in eligible groups should be vaccinated at this point due to the lack of doses. However, the department says in its guidance that “exceptions may be made in order to prevent any vaccine wastage.”
“We can still vaccinate healthcare workers, but at the end of the day, if you have unused doses, call these people,” Hahn said.
She said the county needs to vaccinate 10 million people twice and believes that unused doses needs to be administered quickly and efficiently.
“What we need to do in the county is immediately have a wait list of people who are 65 and older, because that’s the group that I think we should vaccinate as quickly as possible,” she said. “The best thing we can do for our healthcare workers and our overloaded hospitals is to vaccinate the general public.”
In a statement issued Thursday evening, Public Health said that it does not condone the wasting of “any precious vaccine doses and has not and is not directing providers to throw away unused doses.”
“In fact, we have moved swiftly to set up vaccine clinics on quick turnaround whenever we have learned of potential vaccine expirations,” the statement continued. “Although the priority now is to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers and residents in long-term health facilities, Los Angeles County has allowed for exceptions in the vaccination plan to be made in order to prevent any vaccine wastage, as is detailed on page 8 of the department’s guidance.”
The department said that any reports of vaccine wastage or misuse would be investigated. Anyone with information about possible waste or misuse was urged to email firstname.lastname@example.org.