'Vax trash' increases as worldwide COVID-19 vaccination effort ramps up

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As coronavirus vaccines roll out across the world, we're seeing an increase in discarded medical products heading to the dump.

Many are calling it vax trash. There’s a lot of it.

"Really what we’re talking about are syringes from the (coronavirus) vaccination programs, the needles," said Dr. Amesh Adalja, Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

That’s hundreds of millions of those needles.

Where do they go?

"Eventually, they get picked up by companies who then autoclave them, rendering them noninfectious anymore and then they get put into landfills," he said. "That’s the same with any kind of vaccine or any kind of medical equipment. They eventually end up in the same place."

Vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are seen during a vaccination clinic at the Sir Ludwig Guttmann Health and Wellbeing Centre on December 15, 2020 in Stratford, England.
Vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are seen during a vaccination clinic at the Sir Ludwig Guttmann Health and Wellbeing Centre on December 15, 2020 in Stratford, England. Photo credit Leon Neal/Getty Images

It is the largest vaccination effort the world has ever seen, so there’s bound to be some trash resulting from it.

Some of the packaging the vaccines come in do get recycled. Dr. Adalja added that Pfizer, for example, has requested the return of some of its vaccine packaging so it can be reused.

The medical community is well versed in mass vaccination.

"Over a hundred million flu vaccines shipped this year, so we’re good at doing that," Dr. Adalja said. "It’s just a lot more than normal and it’s one of the cascading impacts of a pandemic."

Featured Image Photo Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images