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COVID-19 vaccine standby lists filling up with people hoping to get leftover vaccine

Once vials of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine are opened and prepared to be injected in people, they have a short lifespan.

BRYAN, Texas — People across the nation have been signing up to get their COVID-19 vaccination and it's no different here in the Brazos Valley. If people are not yet eligible to get the vaccine, some are turning to "standby" lists; lists that will vaccinate people when leftover vaccine is left behind.

The leftover vaccine is what is left in the vial after initial doses have been given. But, not wanting that vaccine to go to waste, some areas are using it to help get people vaccinated faster. COVID-19 vaccines have expiration dates, and some can expire faster than others. If you don't use it, you lose it.

“Think about food. Often food that says no need to refrigerate, but once open you have to use within an X period of time," said Dr. Marcia Ory, who is with the Texas A&M School of Public Health. "That’s the exact same principle for these vaccinations."

Once vials of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine are opened and prepared to be injected in people, they have a short lifespan.  

“Pfizer is only good for six hours. Moderna is a little longer but it’s not going to last overnight once you open the vial," Dr. Ory said. "We have lists of people in the hubs and now pharmacies and grocery stores that will be getting the vaccination and they'll have a list, but if there’s a no-show for that list or if the people were able to get more doses out of a particular vial, there will be leftover vaccinations."

She said those leftover vaccines are what people on standby vaccine lists are hoping to receive at the end of the day. Dr. Ory also said signing up on these sites doesn’t guarantee a shot. 

"If they want it, they have to be ready to move and hop in a car and be at a pharmacy in five minutes. We’re going to be getting vaccines, more places will be having the opportunity to be distribution centers, which means your chance of getting them if you don’t qualify for one of those top tiers is still pretty good. Because the issue is better to have the vaccination for someone than to waste it,” said Dr. Ory.

Once vaccines are prepared and are ready for inoculation, they must be used that same day. If they’re left overnight, Dr. Ory said they will not effective. 

“I don’t think it’s going to have drastic bad effects, but you cannot guarantee the potency so it’s an issue of potency will the drug be as effective as tested if you it’s out of the time limit that they think it’s effective,” said Dr. Ory. 

Rushing to get on a standby list shouldn't be high on your priorities. Dr. Ory said as more vaccines become available during this time, it could throw a kink into the system to sign up to get the vaccine in multiple places.

“That’s why you’ll have wasted vaccinations. If you sign up as a regular person and it’s your turn, and you sign up in 10 places, then you’re likely to have nine no-shows,” said Dr. Ory

But, if you are putting yourself on multiple waitlists to be vaccinated, she said that is acceptable. 

Chief Jim Stewart at the Brazos County COVID-19 HUB vaccination site said the HUB does not have a standby vaccine list as they schedule appointments.