Millions of COVID-19 vaccines in South Korea have been wasted--report | Inquirer News

Millions of COVID-19 vaccines in South Korea have been wasted–report

/ 04:45 PM August 18, 2022
Millions of COVID-19 vaccines have been wasted: report

COVID-19 vaccine vials and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Novavax logo. (Reuters-Yonhap)

SEOUL — More than five million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been discarded in South Korea, according to a report released by the National Assembly, Thursday.

More vaccines, however, are expected to be discarded with their expiration dates approaching. The issue of COVID-19 vaccines going to waste is likely to continue as more COVID-19 vaccines are scheduled to arrive in South Korea by the end of this year.


According to the National Assembly Budget Office, the country discarded a total of 5.29 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of July 6, about 3.6 percent of the total number of vaccines that the country had secured, which stands at 145.8 million doses.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said most of the vaccines were discarded as they expired. The shelf life for COVID-19 vaccines is usually between six months and a year.


The government is currently canceling or delaying scheduled imports of COVID-19 vaccines.

Last month, the government canceled imports of 4 million doses of the Janssen vaccine and 12.6 million doses of vaccines that were supposed to arrive through COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access. The government talked with Pfizer to halt imports of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine for the third quarter of this year as well.

The government postponed imports of 37.6 million doses of the Novavax vaccine to next year because many of the vaccine doses have already been wasted. In South Korea, a total of 2.3 million doses of the Novavax vaccine have been imported, but only some 580,000 doses have been used.

As of Aug. 10, the total number of doses Korea still has is 15 million, which includes 9.5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 3.1 million doses of Moderna vaccine, 1.9 million doses of the Janssen vaccine and 147,000 doses of the Novavax vaccine.

The National Assembly asked the government to devise measures to minimize the number of COVID-19 vaccines that will be discarded.

The government, since June, has been looking into ways to grant surplus COVID-19 vaccines to countries that experience difficulties in securing vaccines.

But, the government said it has been difficult to find countries that are in need of COVID-19 vaccines, largely as many countries have enough at the moment. The demand for potentially outdated COVID-19 vaccines has also decreased amid the spread of new omicron subvariants, it explained.


Vaccines that are close to their expiry dates can also be rejected even if a country needs COVID-19 vaccines, according to the government. There are also difficulties in sharing vaccines with countries that ask for COVID-19 vaccines that do not have proper storage facilities.

In late August, the government will announce its new vaccination policy, which could increase the vaccinations that people can receive. The government can also introduce an adjusted timeline for vaccine procurement to minimize the number of vaccines that will expire and announce its plan to introduce omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccines.


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TAGS: COVID-19 Vaccines, Health, South korea
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