How are health leaders handling leftover COVID-19 vaccines?

COVID-19 Vaccine

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The hunt is on for leftover doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, but West Michigan health officials say stay home and wait your turn.

As people across the country continue to line up outside vaccination clinics or scour the internet in hopes of scoring leftover doses, Kent County Health Department Immunization Supervisor Mary Wisinski said that’s not the way to do it.

Instead, local health officials have come up with a strategic plan, creating waiting lists and collaborating with community partners to make sure any extra doses go to qualified individuals.

“Our message at the health department is when people want to say, ‘Hey, can I just wait around?’ we say, ‘Absolutely not,’” Wisinski said. “We do have waiting lists for our priority groups so we know who we can call at the end of the day that fit our priority groups.”

Kent and Ottawa county health departments told News 8 they haven’t let a single dose go to waste, doing their best to ensure every last drop of the vaccine goes to qualified individuals, preferably those most vulnerable.

Ottawa County health officials call on a local senior center, Evergreen Commons, to help fill any last-minute openings.

“We had like six of us calling to fill 68 spots,” Barb Visser with Evergreen Commons said. “We called through to especially people who don’t have an email as the phone call is the best way to reach them and we got them in right away saying, ‘Hey what are you doing today? Are you able to run over to the health department?’ And they were able to, so we got 68 people in that day.”

Joyce Dunne, 71, of Ottawa County said she received a message directly from the health department saying she could get the vaccine the next day.

“I got a text … that I was randomly selected,” Dunne said. “Apparently, they had extra vaccines, so they started texting people, so that was exciting.”

For Visser, it’s reassuring to see health officials doing all they can to get any spare doses in the arms of senior citizens as they often struggle with the digital registration process.

“I’ve had people cry because they’re so happy because they’re frustrated … (they) couldn’t figure out the form online, they didn’t have internet, they didn’t have email,” Visser said. “So, when we call them and say, ‘I can sign you up right now for you to have a shot,’ it’s the best thing in the world. You feel like you’re giving people Christmas gifts, in fact, people even said that it feels like Christmas.

Officials with West Michigan’s vaccine clinic at Devos Place said there’s a similar strategy in place when it comes to leftover vaccines, using wait lists and other methods so the doses only go to qualified individuals.

Officials at the clinic said recently when they had a few leftover doses, they called central dispatch who helped connect them with firefighters and police officers who had yet to be vaccinated, giving them the spare shots.

News 8 reached out to Meijer to see how they handle leftover doses at the end of the day.

“In the rare event someone doesn’t show up for their appointment, we are able to quickly identify others who have registered and get them scheduled,” Senior Director of Corporate Communications Frank Guglielmi said. “Leftover doses have not been an issue for us.”

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