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Unfair to blame advisory group for COVID-19 vaccine wastage —DOH

It is unfair to blame the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) for the 31 million COVID-19 vaccine doses that were wasted, Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said Friday.

“I think it’s unfair that we accuse, that the HTAC is to be blamed for this kind of issue that we have right now. Pag tinignan natin sa kabuuan, marami ho talagang factors [If we really look into it, there were several factors] which led to this kind of wastage,” Vergeire told CNN Philippines.

During the budget deliberations of the DOH on Thursday, Senator Risa Hontiveros revealed that 31.3 million doses of vaccines are going to waste.

Former Health Secretary and Iloilo Representative Janet Garin said that HTAC, the group that advises the DOH, should share the blame for the wastage.

Garin said that while other countries were already administering COVID-19 booster shots, HTAC has yet to decide on when to give booster shots and still waiting on the result of their clinical trials.

However, Vergeire said HTAC, the Food and Drug Administration, and other experts worked hard to generate evidence to show that vaccines are safe.

“So I think there was really no one to blame na specific. Unfair din po na ma-blame natin yung ating mga experts. They did their job. Lahat po ginawa natin expediously,” Vergeire said.

“It just so happened that evidence was really not that complete then and our experts cannot be forced to decide kung hindi naman po kumpleto ang ebidensya,” she added.

(It just so happened that the evidence was really not that complete then and our experts cannot be forced to decide if the evidence is not complete.)

31.3M breakdown

Of the 31.3 million, Vergeire said 24.4 million doses expired while 7 million doses were wasted due to operational causes such as temperature excursions, calamities, and vials that were opened but not completely used.

Vergeire said that of the 24.4 million doses, 1.75% were procured by the government, 70% were procured by both the private sector and local government units, and 10% to 15% were donations.

The Health undersecretary estimated the 1.75% cost at around P1.1 billion.

“Well kapag tinignan ho natin… ang estimate lang po natin yung presyo na ginagamit natin across the board, across all of these vaccines would be P500. It’s around P1.1 billion,” she said.

(Well if we look at it, the estimate of the price across the board, across all of these vaccines, would be P500. It’s around P1.1 billion.)

Vergeire said the regions that recorded the most vaccine wastage are Region 5, Region 3, the National Capital Region, Region 7, and the Bangsamoro Region. —KBK, GMA Integrated News