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Indiana hospitals respond to the call to prevent the waste of COVID vaccine

Doses can be thrown away when those scheduled for shots fail to show up because once the vaccine is thawed, it has to be used in a set number of hours.

INDIANAPOLIS — Limited supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine means every dose counts. But with strict timelines and eligibility some states are forced to throw away perfectly good vials.

The FDA chief is urging states to find ways to prevent waste.

Ted Brindle returned from a cruise last March to the COVID-19 outbreak. Since then, he's been hunkered down in Hancock County awaiting word for a vaccine and watching the virus takes its toll.

"Our granddaughter is a nurse down at one of the hospitals downtown and she's been treating COVID patients. In fact, she got it in the spring," he revealed. "We're very conscious of this, in fact we've had a good friend pass away on Jan. 1 from complications from COVID."

The 71-year-old retired engineer heard about a "call list" at Deaconess Hospital in Evansville. There, seniors between 60 and 79 years old are on standby for unused vaccines.

"I want the vaccine as quickly as I can get it to protect my wife and I both. it looked pretty simple to do," he said reviewing the online sign up for the end-of-the-day extra vaccines.

The only requirement is the senior must be able to arrive at a designated site within 45 minutes of the call.

The setup expands the senior population receiving the shots and prevents good doses from being tossed out.

"It makes no sense to throw it away. I mean, that's silly," Brindle said.

13 Investigates wanted to see how many doses are wasted.

Doses can be thrown away when those scheduled for shots fail to show up because once the vaccine is thawed, it has to be used in a set number of hours. So we reached out to local health systems for a checkup.

IU Health reports it has administered 38,000 vaccines and tossed out five due to expiration issues.

Ascension St. Vincent put its number of vaccines at 22,276 and, to date, said not one has been thrown away.

A Community Health spokeswoman said 12,000 vaccines have been given to date with a loss of less than five doses.

At Eskenazi, a total of 4,000 vaccines have been administered and four doses have been thrown away.

Franciscan Health reports it has used every single dose of its vaccine, but shots are only offered to staff members.

Eskenazi told 13 Investigates it is "keeping a list of health care workers and public safety employees who need to receive the vaccine" on a call up list.

While IU Health is operating a "no waste" system by calling its hospital or clinical units and asking them to send eligible health care workers to take advantage of the available vaccines.

But so far, only seniors over 80 qualify for the shots locally, leaving Ted Brindle waiting patiently for his turn.

"We should be able to get it hopefully fairly soon, but if they have vaccine that's not being used and we can get it earlier that's fine with me," he said.

According to the State Department of Health:

"Specific instructions were given to hospitals that state what to do if they have additional doses. If a hospital has extra doses in an open vial, they have been encouraged to have a standby list so that no vaccine goes to waste and administer the vaccine to the next people in line. We have asked hospitals to prioritize healthcare workers and hospital employees who may come into contact with people who have COVID-19 when creating their standby lists...we believe wastage has been minimal."