JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — You want the vaccine, but you aren’t eligible yet in your state.
Some people are finding success in getting the vaccine through a process often referred to as waste management or waste protocol.
This means going to vaccination sites at the end of the day and getting a vaccine that otherwise wouldn’t have an arm to go in. Some sites even seem to have waste waitlists to be called on if someone doesn't show up to their appointment and the vaccine needs to go to someone that day.
The process is different at every location, pharmacy or state site.
At Regency Mall, the state vaccination site in Jacksonville, some days you’ll see a line of non-eligible people waiting during the last hour of operation hoping for these "extras". Sometimes we are told it works, other times not.
The goal is to not waste a vaccine. Depending on the vaccine, it must be used within a certain period of time. Once thawed out it cannot be returned to the ultra-cold storage, according to the FDA.
The press secretary for Florida's Emergency Management said the state sites have never thrown out vaccines at any state-supported site; if for whatever reason there are leftover doses, which she said is unlikely, then they will be reallocated to other state resources.
Both Publix and Walmart have protocols in place in order not to waste a vaccine.
According to company policy, a Publix spokesperson says “Publix’s goal is to administer 100 percent of the vaccines. We have a process in place to immunize our associates if there are any remaining doses at the end of the night.”
When First Coast News went to one Publix location, the staff said they have a waste waitlist but it was currently full.
A Walmart spokesperson says in part “Eligibility and Waste Avoidance Protocols have been developed in collaboration with state health departments with the shared goal of never letting a dose go to waste…. In the event additional doses from an opened vial are available and there are no scheduled appointments, we turn to individuals, including our associates, who fall within that priority to administer the remaining doses.”
When First Coast News called a local Walmart location, the pharmacy staff asked for a name, date of birth and phone number and no other questions were asked. It seems that simple to be put on a mysterious waste waitlist.
Winn-Dixie's response was not included on air because we did not receive a response by deadline. A Winn-Dixie spokesperson sent First Coast News the following statement:
"With real-time bookings and cancellation of appointments, vaccine allocation and availability continues to be a fluid situation and our pharmacies follow the CDC's no-waste recommendations to ensure every dose is administered to eligible individuals.
In the rare occurrence that extra doses are available due to cancellations or no-shows, our pharmacies refer to their patient databases to identify and contact individuals who meet state and federal eligibility guidelines to receive the vaccines as the primary priority. Store associates in priority groups are also given the opportunity to receive the vaccines, if eligible patients are unable to do so, to ensure any remaining doses do not go to waste.
While our pharmacies do not maintain waiting lists, we encourage qualified individuals to continue to visit our online scheduling tool for timely updates, including vaccine availability details as appointments can become available due to cancellations."
How long are these mystery waitlists? We are not sure.
Social media posts show it might be about luck and timing. Some people say they happen to be at a pharmacy at the end of the day and simply asked if there were any extras.
It never hurts to ask.