Some 1.1 Billion COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Likely Wasted Since Rollout Began
COVID-19 vaccine doses
Wasted COVID-19 vaccine doses since beginning of immunization drives

Some 1.1 billion COVID-19 vaccines are likely to have been wasted since the global rollout began,  according to new findings by Airfinity, a global health surveillance firm

Airfinity’s analysis, released Monday, assumed a 10% wastage rate from June 2021 when global dose sharing began. This rate is taken from confirmed wastage in the United States and factors in an average shelf life of six months. The team also collated all public reports of vaccine waste and expirations from around the world, totalling some 158 million doses. 

The majority of the reporting on wastage did not specify, however, which vaccine type was discarded. Of those which do name the manufacturer, Russia’s Sputnik V was the most squandered with over 25 million doses that are known to have been unused. This was followed by AstraZeneca’s reported 19 million wasted jabs.

Wastage of COVID-19 vaccine doses under-reported, but within range of Gavi assumptions   

The new estimate means that around 8% of the 1.1 billion doses reportedly disbursed until now have gone unused. Those estimates are within the recommended range of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which assumed the wastage rate for COVID vaccines could be as high as 10%. But the estimates also reflect a certain level of uncertainty toward the underreporting of vaccine wastage in terms of individual reports from nations’ public health systems.    

Airfinity’s Analytics Director Dr Matt Linley said some degree of wastage is inevitable despite countries’ best efforts. 

“Large multi-dose vials can make efficiencies more challenging, as well as cold chain storage and predicting daily demand or simply a vial being dropped or left out too long,” Linley said.

“Vaccines in single-dose vials with a longer shelf life, which can be transported and stored more easily, will reduce wastage over time,” he said. “Pfizer/BioNTech’s most recent agreement with the U.S. includes single doses, a first for COVID-19 vaccines, and a stipulation we expect to be repeated by other nations.”

Airfinity’s CEO Rasmus Bech Hansen said no one wants to waste doses in any amount, but it’s a byproduct of an unprecedented level of vaccine production that has saved millions of lives.

“If we want a fast reacting global vaccine response system, we will have to accept some level of wasted doses,” he said. “But the less the better, and monitoring the wastage levels ongoing is an important piece of global health information.”

Image Credits: Asian Development Bank/Flickr, Airfinity .

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