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Managing COVID-19 Vaccine Waste For The Expanded Eligible Group of Individuals

The FDA recently gave the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine emergency use authorization for children ages 5-15. Full approval of the vaccine was given for people ages 16 and older. Many state agencies, pharmacies, and other community healthcare providers are ramping up for the influx expected with this new age group now eligible. Additionally, the FDA expanded eligibility for the Covid-19 vaccine booster. The emergency use authorization of a single booster dose was amended from individuals 65 years of age or older, to now include all individuals 18 years or older six months after completion of a primary Covid-19 vaccination.

Community-based healthcare sites and public health organizations have been administering the Covid-19 vaccines since the initial EUA (emergency use authorization) was approved back in December 2020. This required swift coordination to make the vaccines available as quickly as possible to those who were eligible. Having the right resources, tools, and information available at the time was critical to becoming fully functional to administer hundreds and thousands of vaccine doses daily. This included how to effectively handle the vaccines and any remnant waste.

BWS Managing Covid-19 Vaccine Waste for the Expanded Eligible Group

As local clinics and pharmacies begin to ramp up again for the newly eligible age group and booster administration, now is the perfect time to review proper handling of Covid-19 vaccines and any related waste. Earlier this year, BWS published collaborative guidelines to assist in the process. BWS partnered with the Healthcare Waste Institute to develop general guidance for Covid-19 vaccine waste disposal. In general, disposal of SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine related waste should follow similar processes as other vaccine related waste. In this article we will review those guidelines.

It's important to note that these are general guidelines, and you should always comply with local/state laws, CDC guidelines, and vaccine manufacturer's guidelines for vaccine waste handling and disposal. Additionally, it's essential to adhere to medical waste acceptance and packaging guidelines. For more information about the "Do's and Don'ts" of properly disposing of biohazardous waste, check out our guide in the Covid & Other Resources section.

Syringes, Needles, and Empty Vaccine Vials

Syringes, needles, and empty vaccine vials should be placed in an FDA-approved sharps container. These are designated containers, normally red in color and made from rigid, puncture-proof plastic. Never discard needles or other sharp objects directly into the trash or loose into the biohazardous waste box/container without properly discarding them into a sharps container first.

Remaining Doses of Vaccine

As previously communicated, the Covid vaccine is not hazardous and does not contain any viral material. If you have leftover doses of vaccine that have been compromised or not, they may be disposed of in accordance with state regulation requirements for non-hazardous pharmaceuticals. Generally non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste containers are identifiable as white in color with blue lids.

Vial Trays

If your facility is administering the Pfizer vaccine, the vial trays it is stored on should be disposed of in the red bag, biohazardous waste box/container. However, be sure to check local/state laws, protocols, and disposal policies before placing vial trays in the biohazardous waste box/container.

Contaminated PPE

Contaminated personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, and gowns for example, should be disposed of in the red bag, biohazardous waste box/containers. This will help avoid the potential spread of highly contagious viruses, like Covid-19.

Non-Contaminated PPE

PPE items that have not been contaminated can be disposed of in the trash. Other non-contaminated items such as cotton balls, alcohol wipes, bandages, and polystyrene (styrofoam) can also be disposed of in the trash, unless there are specific instructions from the vaccine manufacturer stating otherwise.

Cardboard Packaging

If you have any cardboard packaging associated with the Covid vaccine that is not required to return to the vaccine manufacturer, this can be recycled. This is a simple way your facility can contribute to the protection of our environment.

"Cold Box" Shipping Materials and Tracking Materials

The SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine is packaged in a "cold box" and is equipped with tracking devices that monitor temperature. These may need to be returned to the manufacturer. Follow the vaccine manufacturer's guidelines for what items need to be returned and how they should be returned.

Dry Ice

Any dry ice that is not needed should be left in an open, well-ventilated area to sublimate. Do not place dry ice into an alternative container; it should always be kept in it's original container.

Trusting the Experts at Biomedical Waste Services, Inc. to Handle Your Covid Vaccine Waste Disposal Needs

Here at Biomedical Waste Services, Inc. we have over 45 years experience collecting, transporting, and disposing of biohazardous and infectious waste for a variety of industries in the mid-Atlantic area, including Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C., Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. We specialize in managing all regulated and biohazardous waste management needs, including vaccine waste. We've partnered with many Covid-19 testing and vaccination sites across our service area to help manage this critical need in our communities. It is important to us that we provide our customers with the latest information and resources to help manage their medical waste needs so they can continue focusing on treating and caring for patients.

If your facility or organization is managing coronavirus vaccines, we have resources and service to cover your needs with no long-term contracts or hidden fees. Call or contact us today to see how we can help your facility manage your vaccine waste disposal needs.


CDC Identification, Disposal, and Reporting of Covid-19 Vaccine Wastage

CDC: Covid-19 Vaccines for Children and Teens

FDA Expands Eligibility for Covid-19 Vaccine Boosters

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