Coronavirus (COVID-19): Vaccination Waste Disposal Best Practices
Managing the influx of sharps waste resulting from the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines requires a waste management plan. Plans for different scenarios require consideration of unique needs. Vaccinations can occur at hospitals – both on-site and off-site (tents, pop-ups, annex building and other temporary locations) – as well as retail pharmacies, clinics and long-term care facilities. While considerations are similar for these situations, they are key for developing your plan for disposing of vaccination waste.
It’s necessary to evaluate where the administration will happen, where to source sharps containers, where they should be located, how many vaccinations and patients are expected, and whether there are enough sharps containers to accommodate the waste generated. For on-site vaccination administration within your facility, Stericycle recommends increasing inventory of reusable sharps containers to accommodate increased volume of waste and not displace containers from other patient care areas. For off-site administration, purchase additional disposable sharps containers to manage waste at the location.
Manufacturers also recommend that fully discharged vaccine vials are discarded in sharps containers, which should be taken into account when planning container quantity. Vial trays should also be discarded as medical waste; refer to your vaccine manufacturer’s instructions for packaging waste.
Full or Partial Vials (also called Residual Doses)
Other Medical Waste
Safe & Compliant Disposal Guidance
Used syringes must be captured in sharps containers and disposed of as regulated medical waste (RMW).
This material can be disposed of as regulated medical waste. Please refer to your vaccine manufacturer's instructions for packaging waste such as trays and boxes.
The Department of Defense has recommended that all vial waste be captured in sharps containers to mitigate potential diversion and illicit intent. As such, once placed in a sharps container, the container should be managed as regulated medical waste.
Once placed in a sharps container, these items should be managed as regulated medical waste or as non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste.
Gloves, gauze, cotton balls, bandages, and the like should not be placed in disposable sharps containers. Those items can go into the regular trash, or if considered potentially infectious material, disposed in RMW containers.
Please refer to CDC guidance for disposal of dry ice.