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Vaccine supplies at UNC Health are very limited. We are aware of the concern this is causing and are working hard to administer as many vaccines as possible. Please note that limited vaccine supply will not affect our ability to provide a second dose if you have already received your first dose. Learn more.

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Because COVID-19 vaccines have a short shelf life, hospitals nationwide often use a standby approach for unused doses.

UNC Health is focused on vaccinating priority groups – those 65 and older and those in underserved communities. Those groups make up the appointments scheduled each day. As we reach the end of the day and those appointments are complete, there are often a handful of unused vaccines doses. These extra doses exist because vial of COVID-19 vaccine has several doses, typically up to 6 doses per vial. And once a vial is opened, it must be used that day.

When hospitals like UNC Health open a vial of a COVID-19 vaccine, they don’t know precisely how many doses they’ll give out that day and they make their best estimate based on the number of appointments scheduled. That is why, often, there are some doses leftover.

UNC Health uses a priority list and standby approach to ensure these doses aren’t wasted. That list is built based on need as well as the ability for people to get to a vaccine clinic quickly.

ABC11 talked to UNC Health infectious disease specialist Dr. David Wohl about the system’s approach to using these doses.

“It’s hard to predict how much you’re going to have let over at the end of the day especially if you don’t have a multiple of the capacity of the vial,” Dr. Wohl said. “By the end of the day, the clinics are preparing only as many vials/doses are absolutely needed for patients. Any remaining doses are being administered to clinic volunteers or standby lists of people who are within the prioritized groups to ensure that no doses go to waste.”

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