COVID-19 vaccines

20.7 million COVID-19 vaccines wasted in the Philippines – DOH

Bonz Magsambol
20.7 million COVID-19 vaccines wasted in the Philippines – DOH

VACCINE. A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a 'Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine' sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken October 30, 2020.

Dado Ruvic/Reuters

(1st UPDATE) 'Sa ngayon, lumalabas na mas mababa ang mga threshold sa acceptable wastage level ng WHO. But billions are still billions,' says Senator Risa Hontiveros

MANILA, Philippines – Citing data from the Department of Health (DOH), Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday, August 15, said the Philippines has wasted 20.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of August, amounting to P10.33 billion.

Hontiveros mentioned this during the Senate panel on health hearing on COVID-19 pandemic and monkeypox response. She said the estimated cost of the wastage was computed based on the P500 price of the vaccine.

Meanwhile, DOH records showed there were 20,660,354 wasted doses. The number accounts for expired vaccines and operational wastage.

As of August, the country has a vaccine wastage at 8.42% – almost double of the 4.7% wastage in June, Hontiveros said. The World Health Organization (WHO) has set the threshold of vaccine wastage at 10%.

20.7 million COVID-19 vaccines wasted in the Philippines – DOH

“At this rate, by October, lampas na tayo sa threshold ng WHO (we will surpass the WHO threshold). We might have accumulated vaccines faster than we could administer them. Nakakapanghinayang na parang patapon ang paggasta ng bilyong piso para dito (It’s such a shame that we just threw out the billions of pesos spent on this), ” Hontiveros said.

“Sa ngayon, lumalabas na mas mababa ang mga threshold sa acceptable wastage level ng WHO (Currently, we’re within the threshold of WHO for the acceptable wastage level). But billions are still billions. Kaya dapat transparent at detalyado ang reports ng mga naideliver na supply (That’s why we need to be transparent and detailed in terms of the reports of delivered supplies),” she added.

The incident of vaccine wastage comes as the Philippines lags behind in terms of booster coverage for COVID-19.

Earlier, DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the agency was ready to answer queries regarding the government’s vaccine deployment. She pointed out vaccine wastage was normal in any vaccination program.

Vergeire cited factors that could have led to wastage – vaccines were opened but those scheduled to take shots did not show up, power outages, unknown particles found in the vaccines, and fires and disasters that contaminated or destroyed the supplies.

The delivery of near-expiring vaccines has been a frequent issue raised by many developing countries, highlighting the logistical difficulties of distributing shots with short shelf lives. While in need of shots, fragmented distribution networks and a lack of manpower, among other reasons, have bogged down efforts to quickly vaccinate populations in lower and lower middle income countries like the Philippines.

Hontiveros urged the DOH to publicize its plans on speeding up its vaccination program amid the wastage. She said that the end of May 2022 vaccination target of the DOH was originally 90 million, but as of August only 72 million were fully vaccinated. – Rappler.com

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.