Inside a secret warehouse used by Los Angeles County to store and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, activity has been non-stop since the vaccines were approved.
The NBC4 I-Team got an exclusive inside look inside the warehouse. It’s so secret, we can’t tell you where it is -- only that it’s somewhere in the more than 4,000-square miles of LA County.
Claire Jarashow, the Director of Vaccine Preventable Disease Control at the LA County Department of Public Health, runs the entire operation.
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"We coordinate and help with the state and the federal government, the cold chain for the vaccines, the distribution, administration and accounting of,” she said.
She says it’s been non-stop, 24/7 since the vaccines were approved. With no playbook to guide them, they’ve had to figure it out as they go.
"I've worked on a variety of different epidemics and outbreaks, but nothing like this,” she said.
Imagine the challenge of processing and distributing shots in a county of 10 million people. That’s like trying to vaccinate the entire population of Sweden or Honduras, and all while positive COVID-19 cases and deaths were affecting family after family.
"I think because this is such a lifesaving endeavor, I would have to say that a lot of the bureaucracy was cut through every level,” Jarashow said.
She explains the federal government shipped vaccines to the California Department of Public Health and then, the state would send a different amount to the county each week/
Then, the county had to figure out how many doses vaccine locations needed every day, with each brand of vaccine having its own storage and dosage protocols. There were 40 to 80 pick-ups and drop-offs daily.
If there were extras at any location -especially as vaccination lines started shrinking -- they scrambled to make sure no doses were wasted.
“We'll have partners that say, okay, we're going to keep clinics open till midnight so you can dump vaccine here at the end of the day that may expire in the next day,” she said. "Our goal is 0% wastage. But that's a really hard thing to do."
But they got pretty close.
Of the 10 million doses sent out in LA County, the latest data from the California Department of Public Health released to and analyzed by the I-Team shows 696 vaccines expired, 802 spoiled, and several hundred more landed in the trash for reasons like broken vials and syringes or doses in already opened vials going unused.
That amounts to only 0.032% tossed out in L.A. County. The number of wasted vaccines statewide also less than one percent, at 0.079%. The data detailing vaccines that expired, spoiled or wasted ranges from December 2020 to April 2021. In California, vaccine providers must report daily inventory and wastage to the state.
“This was done at an incredible speed after the science was there and it's pretty amazing and I think it's going to change vaccination, distribution forever,” Jarashow said.
For more on how many vaccines spoiled, expired or were trashed in your local county, click below.