L.A. County tells providers not to throw away unused COVID-19 vaccine

A man gets an injection in his arm
Veterinary doctor Robert Valentine, 75, gets his COVID-19 vaccine from Registered Nurse Karen L. Simerlink in Huntington Beach.
(Raul Roa / Times Community News)

Los Angeles County leaders Thursday evening issued a statement clarifying an apparently confusing rule in the county’s vaccine plan: that healthcare providers should not throw away doses of COVID-19 vaccine that they opened for people who don’t show up for their appointments.

“The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health does not condone wasting of any precious vaccine doses and has not and is not directing providers to throw away unused doses,” officials said in the statement. “In fact, we have moved swiftly to set up vaccine clinics on quick turnaround whenever we have learned of potential vaccine expirations.”

The statement comes after two TMZ stories about a clinic in Inglewood that provided 150 doses of vaccine to people who didn’t meet the county’s criteria for vaccination.


Presently, L.A. County is using a tiered vaccination rollout plan, dictated by state health officials, that prioritizes healthcare workers and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. (Although the state expanded criteria to allow for residents 65 and older to be vaccinated, L.A. County officials have said they aren’t yet taking the step, in part, because they don’t have enough doses.)

If a healthcare provider opens vials of COVID-19 vaccine but people don’t show up for their appointments, the doses are at risk of expiring if not given in a certain time frame.

It was a day of frustration for seniors trying to make appointments. Some were able to schedule them at retailers but it’s unclear whether those will be honored.

Jan. 14, 2021

L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn, whose Fourth District includes several beach cities, said in an interview with the Times that she was frustrated about the lack of a comprehensive vaccine rollout plan — which she asked the county public health department to create in September — and overall, that more doses aren’t going to residents who need them.

“We’ve still given out less than half of our vaccines that have been allocated to us, and that is unacceptable to me,” Hahn said.

Health officials said in their statement that, although the priority now is to vaccinate front-line healthcare workers and residents in long-term health facilities, L.A. County’s vaccine plan does allow for exceptions to be made to prevent any vaccine wastage.

The county Department of Public Health says it will investigate any reports of vaccine waste or misuse.


“Los Angeles County is committed to vaccinating every resident who wants to be protected from this deadly virus and is working with hundreds of partners to ramp up operations for mass vaccination distribution to eligible groups of residents,” officials said in the statement.

It remains unclear how many, if any, clinics threw vaccine doses away.