Wasted Covid vaccines, 150 million doses too many in Italy: Report’s investigation

The vaccination campaign against COVID-19 for the fifth dose it is not progressing well. The doses administered are far fewer than those ordered, a problem due, in this situation, above all to the low turnout at the vaccination centers by interested people, especially the elderly and vulnerable.

In recent years, however, the EU has ordered an excess of vaccines during the emergency phase, which have not been used. There European Commission has negotiated a new agreement with Pfizer, which allows states to save some of the money promised to the company.

The vaccination campaign in Italy

The third dose vaccination campaign in Italy was a failure. This was revealed by a report from the Rai 3 program ‘Report’, which collected data from vaccination centers throughout Italy. In total, as of February 8, 2.1 million people have received the recall. The expected audience of elderly and frail people is 18 million.

This leads to an excess of vaccines purchased and now stored in Italian warehouses. Italy currently has 21 million doses, of which 16 are not updated to the new variants. Vaccine orders in our country amount to a total of 381 million doses, of which, according to transmission calculations, 150 are in excess. The expenditure for Italy would be 4.4 billion euros.

However, disposing and storing vaccines also comes at a cost. Just renting the facilities needed to store the vials costs 370,000 euros per month. Furthermore, destroying the doses in complete safety has a cost, again according to Report, of around 1 euro per kilo.

The new agreement between Pfizer and the EU

The entire European Union is in a similar situation to Italy. The main reason is due to an excess of vaccines ordered from the pharmaceutical company Pfizer during the emergency phase. The contracts remained secret until the end of 2023 and now the figures have emerged.

The EU has ordered 4.2 billion doses in total. Due to the variation of the virus and the decline in vaccine effectiveness three and six months after the booster injection, some of these vaccines could not be used. From 2021, according to the online newspaper Politico.eu, they would have been thrown away approximately 215 million doses, 0.7 for every European citizen. However, this would be a low estimate given that, according to the newspaper itself, some states such as France have refused to provide precise data.

In 2023, in May, the European Commission would renegotiate the supply of Pfizer. The price of unused doses would have been agreed at 10 euros each, compared to 19.50 for the doses delivered, increased from the previous 15 euros per dose. Pfizer should not actually supply these doses to Europe and member states should not be forced to stockpile or destroy them. The doses delivered, approximately 1.8 billionwould have been diluted into several deliveries until 2026.

The European Parliament and the European Court of Auditors objected the regularity of trading of this new agreement, carried out directly by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. The details of these contracts have not yet been made public. According to Pfizer, these would contain commercially relevant information that could damage its ongoing negotiations with other countries.