Over 31 million COVID-19 vaccine doses wasted — DOH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 17) — Over 31 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have gone to waste, with an estimated cost of ₱15.6 billion, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Thursday.

This is 12% of the 250.38 million doses received and procured by the government, according to the DOH.

Senator Pia Cayetano, who sponsored the agency's proposed budget for next year, cited various reasons for the wastage.

"One of the reasons for the expiration was because some of the COVAX funded vaccines we received have really short lifespan," she said during the budget deliberation at the Senate. "And then there were also those that were subject to natural disasters, there were those that were subject to temperature excursion...There's such a thing such as underdosing."

Senator Risa Hontiveros pointed out that the vaccine wastage reported by the DOH in August was 20.66 million, or 8.42%

Cayetano, however, clarified: "What happened was they did a complete inventory at saka nila natuklasan na nandun sa mga kaduluduluhan ng mga warehouse (and they found out that there were still vaccines in warehouses)...What happened was we now have a more accurate inventory."

Although the World Health Organization has set a 10% threshold for vaccine wastage, Cayetano said "WHO found that the reality is that in low-income, middle-income, and even high-income countries, the wastage rates went up to 30%."

"So, there was then a statement made by WHO that up to 25% is acceptable. I don't think it's meant to be an excuse, but it's just showing the trends and the realities," she added.

Bivalent vaccines

Cayetano also said loans worth ₱3.4 billion will be used to purchase five million doses of bivalent vaccines next year.

"And then COVAX committed for 2023 that they could give out bivalent vaccines also. There are also proceeds of loans that are available for ADB and World Bank for 2023," the senator added.

Bivalent vaccines are said to be effective against Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.

Cayetano also said the DOH plans to procure the vaccines in tranches to avoid wastage as much as possible.