VAX Dx: Where the hell is the vaccine inventory?

Rx: reclaim & redeploy it.

I used to preach to students that, in product businesses, inventory management is crucially important.

Too much inventory is wasteful investment … too little inventory loses sales … wrongly deployed inventory does both.

So, I’d say, laser-focus on inventory numbers.

They are early indicators of problems that may be cropping up in your business system.


With that as background (and with my current high interest in getting vaccinated), I was stunned when Biden’s new CDC director claimed: “I can’t tell you how much vaccine we have.” Source

First, I find that claim to be incredible.

Note: Incredible means not credible.

All vaccines must be tagged with IDs in case inoculation problems crop up (think: Moderna’s recent bad batch in California).

And, it has been broadly reported that each container of COVID vaccine has sophisticated RFID tagging that links to location and even reports current temperature.

So, I gotta believe that figuring out how much vaccine there is — and, as important, where it is — is imminently doable.


Further, the CDC publishes daily stats on doses distributed and used.

Let’s start there … with the published CDC data:


Rounding up for simplicity:

  • 50 million doses have been received and distributed (to states) by the Feds
  • 25 million have been used (by states & localities via hospitals, etc.)

That means that 25 million doses are either “in transit” (probably a very small amount) or “in inventory” (probably the bulk of the doses).

My question: Where the hell are the 25 million doses? Who is holding them, where are they holding them and why are they holding it?


Early on, the theory-of-the-case was that the Feds were holding the inventory back as safety stock for future 2nd doses.

That theory seems to have been dispelled … so, we’ll assume that the Feds are redistributing the doses (to the states) as soon as they get them.

And, based on my personal vaccine chase (including stops at vaccination centers), I’ve concluded that county health departments and retail pharmacies are “selling through” every dose that they get.

So, I don’t think that they’re the problem

So, who is?

There seem to be two “persons of interest”: (1)the nursing home vaccinators (CVS & Walgreen) and (2) hospitals.


CVS-Walgreen’s and the nursing homes

There are some indications that CVS & Walgreen’s — the two pharmacy chains that partnered with the Feds to service nursing homes — are sitting on vaccine inventory.

According to The Atlantic:

Many doses exist but haven’t been used yet. 

Some are reserved for long-term-care facilities, where CVS and Walgreens are vaccinating residents as part of a federal program.

It’s taking the pharmacy chains longer than expected to get through these facilities, making it appear as though there’s a big pile of vaccines sitting there, just waiting to be injected.

Is that true?

On one hand, recent reports say that CVS-WBA (Walgreen Boots Alliance) are claiming that they have completed their mission, having finished a sweep of essentially all nursing homes.

But, it’s also widely reported that while the vast majority of patients are getting vaccinated,  roughly half of all nursing home workers are declining the opportunity to get vaccinated.

So, where is the unused inventory of doses that CVS-WAG initially received?

That data should be available, right?

I say, why not claw back that inventory, i.e. reclaim & redeploy it?

There may be logistical issues (e.g. required refrigeration), but certainly they can be overcome.

How hard is it to quick-ship a container of vaccine to a nearby, high velocity vaccinating location?



Similar to the CVS-WBA situation, there are indications that hospitals may be stockpiling vaccine to 2nd dose its employees who have received their first doses … and to provide doses for employees who have declined vaccinations, but may subsequently “see the light”.

Initially, hospitals were the first to get vaccine distributions.

That made complete sense since hospitals:

  • Have sub-zero freezer capacity to store the vaccines
  • Have medical personnel who are at risk —  directly exposed to COVID on a continual basis
  • Were presumed to have the interest & capability to provide  public vaccinations.

But, a substantial percentage of hospital workers (again, reported to be as high as 50%) are declining the vaccine.

And, many hospitals aren’t using their facilities for broad public vaccinations … choosing to only vaccinate their established patients and “friends”.

So, there’s a likelihood that much of the vaccine inventory is sitting in hospital freezers.

In his weekly news briefing, Maryland Gov. Hogan made brief mention of hospitals’ “under-usage of vaccine” and indicated that hospitals that are stockpiling rather than injecting would have their future allocations reduced — especially hospitals that are not offering public vaccinations.

Right idea, but too soft.

Again, I say, why not claw back that inventory, i.e. reclaim & redeploy it?


Bottom line

Production capacity is constrained, so harboring half of the “available” doses is totally unacceptable.

Let’s have some transparency on who is holding the inventory and where it is?

Then, let’s reclaim & redeploy to high velocity vaccinators.

It isn’t really that hard, guys.


Thanks to DC for nudging me on these issues.

2 Responses to “VAX Dx: Where the hell is the vaccine inventory?”

  1. VAX: Some of the unused vaccine inventory has been found! | The Homa Files Says:

    […] For background and details, see VAX Dx: Where the hell is the vaccine inventory? […]

  2. VAX: So, why is West Virginia kicking other states butts? | The Homa Files Says:

    […] Where the hell is the vaccine inventory? and Some of the unused vaccine inventory has been […]

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