13 Investigates: Likely $6 million in COVID-19 vaccine wasted

BySarah Rafique KTRK logo
Thursday, July 22, 2021
There's likely $6 million in COVID-19 vaccine gone wasted
More than 363,000 COVID-19 vaccines were wasted in Texas since distribution began in December, meaning taxpayers could be spending $6.3 million in waste, according to our 13 Investigates analysis.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Millions of dollars in COVID-19 vaccines have been wasted since the pandemic began, according to a 13 Investigates analysis of state data.

More than 363,000 vaccines have gone unused and were tossed out in Texas alone since vaccine distribution began in December, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Although that's less than 2% of the total vaccines allocated statewide, our analysis found taxpayers could be spending $6.3 million in waste.

The New York Times reported the U.S. is contracted to pay $15 per Moderna dose while Quartz reported the U.S. pays $19.50 for each Pfizer dose.

The state didn't provide how many doses of each vaccine was wasted. It also stopped posting data online indicating how many of each brand was allocated each week.

Still, the average cost of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine is $17.25, meaning the 363,796 wasted doses could cost taxpayers $6.3 million.

A majority of the wasted doses were tossed over the last two months.

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During the first week of vaccine allocation, which started on Dec. 15, 2020, only 93 vaccines were wasted.

When we looked in late January, Texans had wasted 1,791 doses. Weekly vaccine waste peaked during the first week of June, when 60,473 COVID-19 vaccines were reported wasted.

This last week, 35,133 doses were wasted.

The Texas Department of State Health Services tells us "there was a lot less wasted early on when there was a lot less vaccine out there and it was being used very quickly."

There's currently 44,073 active COVID-19 cases across Texas and 5,187 active cases in Harris County, according to state data.

Despite a push from state officials to vaccinate more residents in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus, more and more vaccines continue to be wasted.

Statewide only 52% of Texans 12 years and older are fully vaccinated, according to state data. The vaccination rate is slightly higher in Harris County, with 54% of people 12 and older vaccinated.

Meanwhile, in countries like India, which experienced a spike in cases in May, only 6.3% of residents have been fully vaccinated. Even fewer percent of residents have been vaccinated in some countries in Africa and the Middle East.

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