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COVID-19 vaccine wastage to reach 50M by end of March —Vergeire

The number of COVID-19 vaccine wastage in the Philippines will reach 50 million by the end of March, Department of Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire confirmed Thursday.

At a Senate blue ribbon hearing, Senator Francis Tolentino asked the acting DOH chief to confirm that around 6.74 million doses are about to expire including the following:

  • 4.36 million doses of Pfizer for adults by the end of February including 3 million doses of Pfizer pedia by March and April 2023
  • 2.16 million Sinovac doses by September and October and some 13,040 doses which will expire by the end of May

"So the number of doses pending, that will expire would probably total additional 6.74 million doses, madam secretary, do you confirm this? For a total of 50.74 [million] wasted vaccines, is that a correct addition?" Tolentino asked.

Vergeire responded to the Senate blue ribbon committee chairman in the affirmative.

"I confirm that this would be the amount if we already include those to expire until the end of March this year," Vergeire said.

The DOH official also confirmed that the number of wastage might increase in the following months.

"That might happen but for now, based on the inventories, the succeeding expiry dates of the vaccines would already be in September 2023," Vergeire said.

Currently, Vergeire said there are around 6.9 million vaccines that are currently "quarantined" as they are waiting for the vaccine manufacturers and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow the extension of its shelf lives.

Vergeire also said that the number of wastage might hit more than 60 million due to vaccine hesitancy, but she said the DOH is exerting efforts to ramp up the government's vaccination program.

In December 2022, Vergeire disclosed that 44 million had been wasted due to expiration and operational wastage.

Tolentino also asked the Senate blue ribbon committee to compute the amount of vaccine wastage per vaccine brand as he disclosed that the price of each dose of Pfizer vaccine is at $6.75, Sinovac at $14 and Moderna at $43.

These prices are from the records of the Commission on Audit and the vaccine manufacturers who already divulged the figures notwithstanding the non-disclosure agreements, Tolentino said.

At the latter part of the hearing, former COVID-19 vaccination czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said the $43 per dose price of Moderna is incorrect, but he did not divulge the real price of the vaccine.

Tolentino said their records showed that the price of Moderna vaccines had varied:

-First quarter of 2021: $43
-Second quarter of 2021: $43
-Third quarter of 2021: $29.50
-Fourth quarter and thereafter:  $25.70

"So ang laki ng disparity and if we talk of the current projected wastage eh malaki rin itong matatapon sa Moderna —11 million doses," the senator said.

(The disparity is big and if we talk about the current projected wastage, we will also be losing a lot of Moderna vaccines —11 million doses.)

Ryan Omar Ching of the Department of Finance International Finance Group explained that the prices varied because the vaccine manufacturers demanded a higher price for doses that needed to be delivered immediately.

Latest data from the agency show that there were 166,549,824 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered as of March 5, 2023: 71.072 million first doses; 73.899 million complete doses; and 21.577 million booster doses. —VAL, GMA Integrated News