Europe is letting thousands of doses of Covid vaccines expire, while only 1% of people in …
of low-income countries and 28% of the world’s entire population have received at least one dose. EURACTIV’s report.
On Tuesday, July 27, the EU celebrated reaching its self-imposed target of 70% of adults vaccinated with at least one dose, putting Europe among the world leaders in the vaccination campaign, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
However, despite nearly 60% of adults being fully vaccinated, thousands of doses of Covid-19 vaccine are being thrown away after expiration, EURACTIV has learned.
In Lithuania, a country with a population of less than 3 million, more than 20 thousand expired vaccines have been disposed of since the start of the campaign, a health ministry spokesperson told EURACTIV, who added that the primary reason for the wasted doses were people not showing up for their vaccination appointments.
This presents a problem, as several vaccines are subject to time restrictions. For example, Pfizer’s Comirnaty must be stored between 2 and 30°C after dilution and used within 6 hours, otherwise it must be disposed of.
The exact number of doses wasted in the EU is not available, because neither the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) nor the EU Commission keeps track of them. A spokesperson told EURACTIV that the monitoring of vaccines falls under the responsibility of individual member states, so the executive has no specific verification mechanism regarding the expiration of vaccines.
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The Polish Health Ministry said that nearly 73 thousand doses have been disposed of in the country, a number that is expected to increase in the coming weeks. Michał Kuczmierowski, president of the government Agency for Strategic Reserves, said Polish citizens’ interest in vaccination is dropping by 40% each week, increasing the risk of wasted doses.
Meanwhile, in Germany, thousands of vaccine doses are set to be destroyed, according to local news portal Merkur. The German municipality of Pfaffenhofen has returned 7,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria vaccine to the manufacturer because they are nearing expiration and more people are refusing vaccination.
In the Czech Republic, data from the Ministry of Health show more than 3 thousand doses lost due to expiration, poor storage conditions or breakage.
In France, on the other hand, while the exact number of vaccines lost is not known, the French government said on Tuesday, July 27, that it was pleasantly surprised by the low number of doses lost, adding that health professionals have been very careful to avoid waste.
However, the French health ministry estimates that 50,000 doses of AstraZeneca have expired. While Comirnaty (Pfizer), Spikevax (Moderna) and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines had a low number of wasted doses in storage, 5% were lost in vaccination centers and 10% in doctors’ offices.
However, instead of disposing of expired vaccines, some countries such as Romania have chosen to wait, hoping that the manufacturer or the European Medicines Agency (Ema) will announce a possible extension of the validity period.
Nearly 42 thousand doses of the Vaxzevria vaccine were still stored in the country after the expiration date of June 31. However, this practice is not viewed favorably by the European office of the World Health Organization (WHO). Contacted by EURACTIV, the WHO spokesperson said that since no vaccine can be used beyond the expiration date set by the manufacturer, national ministries of health must deploy every possible action to enhance vaccine dissemination.
“For every story of one country that failed to use all its doses of vaccine before the expiration date, there are dozens of other states that are doing very well with the vaccination campaign,” the spokesperson said.