DOH: ₱1.1 billion worth of gov't-procured COVID-19 vaccines expired

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 25) — The Department of Health (DOH) said Friday ₱1.1 billion worth of COVID-19 vaccines procured by the national government have expired.

In total, over 31 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines worth around ₱15.6 billion have gone to waste in the country, most of them from supply bought by the private sector and local government units (LGUs), the DOH previously said. The expired shots comprise 12% of the 250.38 million doses received by the government, it noted.

Ang estimate lang po natin yung presyo na ginagamit natin (Our estimated price that we use) across the board, across all of these vaccines would be ₱500, it’s around ₱1.1 billion,” DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire told CNN Philippines’ The Source, referring to government procured doses that have expired.

In terms of doses, she said this is 1.75% of the 24 million total expired shots. Another 7 million doses were wasted due to factors like temperature, calamities, and opened vials, according to the DOH.

Vergeire noted around 70% of the expired doses were procured by the local governments and the private sector, and around 10% to 15% were donated.

Meanwhile, around 10% to 15% of the expired shots are being “quarantined” as the DOH waits for the decision of manufacturers to extend their shelf life, she noted.

Most of the expired COVID-19 shots are from the regions of Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Bicol, Central Visayas, and in the Bangsamoro, Vergeire added.

She explained that COVID-19 shots bought by LGUs and the private sector expired due to the difference in the timeline of deliveries. The government started receiving donated shots in March 2021, while deliveries of procured supply started around May, she noted.

“During this time, local government and private sector were requesting already from our vaccine czar (Carlito Galvez Jr.) that they will procure. There was this advice from the national government na 'wag na kayong mag-procure, ibibili naman ng national government lahat ng ating (not to procure since the national government will purchase for the whole) population. But of course, they would want to reserve some for their employees, their constituents so they proceeded with their procurement,” she said.

By the time the vaccines were delivered, most of the priority population, including the target groups of LGUs and companies, were already immunized, the DOH official said.

Vergeire said officials initially suggested that private companies identify LGUs where they can donate their supply, but this process was not followed.

Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin blamed the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) for this wastage, saying the body took a long time to decide on allowing the administration of first and second booster shots.

For Vergeire, it is unfair to put the blame on the HTAC since many factors led to the wastage of COVID-19 vaccines. The experts also are only doing their part to provide proper guidelines in the implementation of the immunization program based on evidence available to them, she added.

The DOH official admitted that there are parts of the vaccination program that could have been done better, specifically in terms of logistics and delivery, and of regular inventory of supply. What the government will stick to is securing the supply even from different sources just to make sure the whole population will be immunized against the disease, she said.