44M doses of Covid-19 vax expired, damaged

FORTY-FOUR million doses of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccines in the country are now considered wastage, based on the latest numbers from the Department of Health (DOH).

A special audit of the country’s Covid-19 vaccination program has been set and the DOH committed to cooperate.

In a press conference, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the number of vaccine wastage has increased from the last time they reported it at 31 million.

“Our reports on (vaccine) wastage is progressive as our inventory is continuously happening,” said Vergeire.

“Last week, we reported 31 million wastage. Now, it is already at 44 million based on our inventories,” she added.

Despite the increase, the number is still within the allowable 25 to 30 percent wastage rate set by the World Health Organization.

“This 44 million is 17.5 percent out of all vaccines received by the country,” said Vergeire.

Of the wasted vaccines, the DOH said 24 million expired, while some 3.8 million were damaged either by natural disasters, temperature excursion, or discoloration.

Vergeire also said the cause of wastage of some five percent is still being determined.

She also noted how 75 percent of the vaccine wastage involves those procured by the private sector or local government units.

As for the National Government, Vergeire said only two percent of its own supplies are among those wasted, while donated vaccines account for four to five percent.

On Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, Vergeire guaranteed the DOH will fully cooperate in the planned special audit of the country’s vaccination program despite having non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with vaccine suppliers and manufacturers.

In a press conference, she assured they will not prevent a full audit of the vaccination program, especially since the DOH itself has sought it.

“The DOH is the one that asked for a special audit of the funds we were able to use in procuring these vaccines,” said Vergeire.

“Primarily and certainly, the DOH will support and will cooperate in this kind of audit process,” she added.

The DOH officer-in-charge said this is because the NDA carries exemptions in its provisions, thus allowing the government to share information.

“The NDA has exemptions, like if it is required by law, auditing or for investigations, we can share,” said Vergeire.

She said the DOH legal department is checking the NDAs to know which documents can be shared and which ones cannot be disclosed.

“Our legal experts are just discussing this so that we are not going to be in violation of these NDAs,” said Vergeire.

The Commission on Audit earlier said it has yet to conduct the special audit of the Covid-19 vaccine procurement of the DOH, citing then health secretary Francisco Duque III’s refusal to hand in the documents, reportedly because of the NDAs. (HDT / SunStar Philippines)