FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Nearly a third of the state’s total vaccine supply expired Saturday, July 31, after weeks of struggling to distribute the doses.
Out of the 300,000 total vaccine doses currently spread across the state, an estimated 90,000 of those are Pfizer doses that expired July 31.
Colonel Robert Ator is the head of the state’s vaccine distribution program, and what he said is most frustrating about the wastage is its timing.
“The truth of it is if I had one more week, I would be able to get rid of it,” said Ator.
Ator said he only needed one more week to get the expired vaccines out because vaccine turnout across the state has more than doubled.
“Four weeks ago, I got out 27,000 doses, and the week that just ended, I got out more than 70,000 doses,” said Ator.
Local pharmacists attribute turn out to a number of factors.
“It has also been adults who have been encouraged by family members to come to get it. Others have said, you know this Delta variant has really got me worried, or all these people being hospitalized who are unvaccinated has me worried,” said Julie Stewart, pharmacist for Medical Arts.
While Ator labels 90,000 doses as large-scale wastage, he said it could have been even worse.
The state also has 50,000 Johnson and Johnson doses which were also set to expire; however, the deadline has been extended and Ator is confident he’ll be able to get those into arms.
“As of late, I’ve had to move quite a bit of it around the state because the demand is returning. People are scared and they don’t want to wait for a booster dose,” said Ator.
We spoke with several small local pharmacies to see how they handled the Pfizer expiration date in Northwest Arkansas. Several of them said they teamed up to make sure those with more than they would be able to distribute before July 31 got their nearly expired dose to pharmacies that had already got through their July supply.