January 10, 2022

For pharmacies: managing COVID-19 vaccine disposal

The RUM Project office has received many phone calls regarding the disposal of empty COVID vaccine vials, expired stock, and sharps. All vaccine vials (including expired, partially used as well as empty vials) and waste (needles and syringes) will need to be disposed of in a sharps bin and not in your RUM bin.

We have been advised by the Department and the Pharmacy COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation team the following information – 

Participating community pharmacies are provided with an on-boarding pack once they commence in the Program.

With respect to the disposal of used vaccine items, the on-boarding pack states that the consumables available for ordering for the COVID-19 Vaccine include:

  • 1mL syringes 
  • 25mm needles (appropriate for most adults) 
  • Sharps waste disposal bins. 

Please note, the sharps waste disposal bins are available for ordering in different sizes as well (e.g. 3L, 6L, etc). 

In addition to the above, the on-boarding pack also states:

  • If pharmacies have trouble obtaining additional ancillary consumables, they can also contact the Vaccine Operations Centre (VOC) to discuss as there may be available stock that can be ordered; and 
  • Disposal of vaccine vials and sharps should occur at the point of use. Vaccine vials and sharps should only be discarded into an approved sharps container. 

 The RUM bins are not an approved sharps container.

Please note, the “Declaration – Australian Government Requirements for AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer Vaccine Sites / Drive Through Vaccination Clinics”, which reflects the Supply Agreement with Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna, provides that all sites must have: 

  • A documented procedure in place for disposing of open and unused vaccine and its packaging components in accordance with local requirements for disposal of Schedule 4 medicines and with any return and disposal instructions provided by the Australian Government (which includes that box containing the vaccines must be defaced and disposed of by local clinical dosing facility waste management services).

This applies to all COVID-19 vaccines (i.e., Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna).

All participating pharmacies need to use sharps containers to dispose of all COVID-19 vaccination products (empty vials, used needles and syringes as well as any unused or expired vaccine remaining in the vial). Once the sharps bin is full, collection needs to be organised as required in your area.

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