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Extra Covid-19 shots pose difficulties for vaccination sites

David MacMillan happily into a dose of Moderna Inc.’s Covid vaccine late on New Year’s Day. While buying food at Giant Food in Washington, DC, the 31-year-old paralegal passed the pharmacist in the store who was struggling to find people in two doses after a couple of health workers missed their appointments. The store was scheduled to close in 10 minutes and the thawed doses had to be thrown out.

Two of the store’s employees and another customer had already turned down the shots. Mr. MacMillan and his 25-year-old friend showed up happy. “I was thrilled,” said MacMillan, whose post on TikTok about the experience went viral. “It’s like being told you won the lottery.”

As scarce supplies slowly roll out to the public, there is sometimes extra vaccine. Vials have a bonus dose or two if vaccine kits have more effective syringes. Some people miss appointments and their shots need to be given away so the vaccine does not go to waste. Some vaccination sites are ready to give shots to new groups of people or want to move the vaccine across county or state lines where people are waiting for it, only to be stopped by local authorities. Occasionally a freezer breaks, causing a race to get shot in the arms.


7;s an extra layer of complexity for vaccination sites as they struggle with the logistics of the largest vaccination campaign in history. The vaccine from Pfizer Inc. stored below minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit and the Moderna vaccine below 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Once thawed, none of them can be put in a freezer.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday that all people over the age of 65 and anyone with pre-existing conditions should be eligible for the shot and release millions of doses that it has withheld for the second dose to health professionals. The extended eligibility helps vaccination sites find willing individuals. At the same time, some locations may not be able to manage shots as quickly as they would due to staffing issues in the middle of a winter hike in Covid-19 cases. And some may still face the waste problem at the end of each day.

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