Who Pays for Left Over Flu Shots?

By: Jessa Goddard, Medical Reporter
By: Jessa Goddard, Medical Reporter

Knoxville (WVLT) - Every year, millions of leftover flu shots are destroyed to ensure you get the most up-to-date version of the vaccine for the upcoming season.

This year's mild flu season leaves behind more than 10 million of a record 110 million doses produced.

So, how many vaccines are left here in Knox County, and will you pay for the wasted vaccines?

The flu season in East Tennessee isn't officially over until the end of March, still, health officials are preparing to destroy what's left, and have already ordered supply for the next.

Unsold during this year's mild flu season, and written off as trash. Millions of doses of flu vaccine will expire at midnight June 30th.

"We have about 1800 doses of the 11,000 doses that we ordered," says Mark Jones, Knox County Health Department Director.

For years, policymakers have talked about letting doctors keep unused vaccine until new doses are in hand, donating leftover supplies to poor countries, or pushing back the expiration date.

After all, wasted vaccine means lost money.

"This past year, we paid between $10 and $13 per dose, depending on the manufacturer," Jones says.

But don't forget, the Knox County Health Department charges $15 a shot.

Director Mark Jones says they do that anticipating what it will cost them to destroy what's left.

So if county health officials accurately predict how much they will need, then the budget, and in turn taxpayers, break even.

You heard us mention, manufacturers require health departments and doctors' officers to order their supply by January of every year.

Based on the past few years, county health officials ordered 8,000 shots.

It takes manufacturers about six months to produce vaccine. The first shipments are usually received by early fall.

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