PH wasted 31.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, says Pia Cayetano
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines wasted a total of 31.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses as of November, amounting to about P15.6 billion, said Senator Pia Cayetano.
Citing data from the Department of Health (DOH), Cayetano laid out the figures during the Senate plenary session on the proposed 2023 national budget.
She said the cost of wastage was only estimated based on the computation of P500 per vaccine dose.
Senator Risa Hontiveros pointed out, however, that the vaccine wastage reported by the DOH in August was 20.6 million doses worth around P10.33 billion.
Cayetano, who defended the DOH budget for next year, then clarified that the vaccine wastage did not increase in a span of three months.
“What happened was they did a complete inventory at saka nila natuklasan na sa kadulu-duluhan na warehouse, meron pa pa pala doon. What happened was, we now have a more accurate inventory, so hindi naman siguro tumaas. In fact, hindi talaga tumaas were probably higher in the beginning. And now we have a more accurate figure and we can ask DOH to continue to update us henceforth,” she explained.
(What happened was that they did a complete inventory, and there, they discovered that there were wasted vaccines in the corner warehouses in the country. So what happened was, we now have a more accurate inventory, so it probably didn’t increase. In fact, it really didn’t increase, but it was probably higher in the beginning. And now we have a more accurate figure, and we can ask DOH to continue to update us henceforth.)
Cayetano said the wasted stocks only take up 12 percent of the 250.38 million total COVID-19 vaccines received and procured by the Philippines.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has set the threshold of vaccine wastage at 10 percent.
But according to Cayetano, this was only an initial ceiling set by the WHO.
“From their experience, WHO found that the reality is that in low-income, middle-income, and even high-income countries, the wastage rates went up to 30 percent. So, there was then a statement made by WHO that up to 25 percent is acceptable. I don’t think it’s meant to be an excuse, but it’s just showing the trends and the realities,” she said.
The causes of the vaccine expirations, Cayetano noted, were short life spans of the stocks, natural disasters, temperature excursions, discoloration, and particulate matter, among others.
But she mentioned that there are already 300,000 wasted Covax vaccines that have since been replaced.
The WHO-led Covax has previously pledged to replace at least 10.5 million wasted stocks of COVID-19 vaccines.
Cayetano later took note: “Para fair lang din iyong narrative natin, we also have a lot of donated vaccines. As recipients, wala naman tayong control kung malapit na mag-expire yun, but they will also fall under our inventory.”
(But to make the narrative fair, we also have a lot of donated vaccines. As recipients, we don’t have control if they’re already near-expiring, but they will also fall under our inventory.)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.