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Managing SARS-CoV-2 mRNA Vaccine Waste

As the country ramps up with administering the SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine, questions are beginning to arise about managing the disposal of vaccine waste.

Here are the Healthcare Waste Institute’s general recommendations for managing waste after administering the vaccine for Covid-19.

In general, disposal of SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine related wastes should follow the same processes for other vaccine related wastes.

Contact MERI for pickup and disposal of your vaccine waste.

Testing items that should in the biohazard bag include:

  • PPE that has been grossly contaminated (i.e. blood, vomit)
  • Used swabs or processed testing materials

However, not all states are the same. If a state has more stringent requirements than below, follow your state’s laws!

In addition, if the CDC or vaccine manufacturer provides updated management practices, follow those instead. Lastly, please be sure to follow MERI’s policy of tying all biohazard bags when they are full. Here is a video that outlines how to prepared medical waste for shipment.

Medical Waste Containers

Use the following containers for each of the waste products listed below:

  • Sharps Container – Used syringes/needles and empty vaccine vials.
  • Pharmaceutical waste container – Remaining doses of vaccine. The vaccine is not a hazardous waste. The SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine does not contain any viral material, attenuated or otherwise. It does not need to be managed as a hazardous waste pharmaceutical. Dispose of vials containing residual liquids according to state or end disposal facility requirements for non-hazardous pharmaceuticals or regulated medical waste.
  • Red bag – Vial trays (please note this is a requirement of Pfizer) and grossly contaminated personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Trash – PPE, such as masks, gowns and gloves, that are not contaminated. In addition, items such as cotton balls, alcohol wipes, bandages and polystyrene packaging can be put in the trash.
  • Recycling – Recycle cardboard packaging that isn’t going back to the manufacturer.
  • Return to manufacturer – Follow vaccine manufacturers’ instructions for return of any “cold box” shipping materials and tracking devices.  In the case of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the temperature-monitoring device, foam lid, dry ice pod, and box that holds the vial trays should be returned.
  • Other Dry ice should be allowed to sublimate. It should change from a solid to a gas in an open, well-ventilated area. Additionally, keep it in the original container. Dry ice in an enclosed space can lead to build-up of carbon dioxide which can result in a potential for suffocation.
Free Poster

Click here for a Free Poster on STEPS to administering Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine.

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