240 million doses of vaccine wasted worldwide

At least 240 million expired doses of vaccine have been wasted worldwide, according to analysis by London-based firm Airfinity, published last week by the daily The world.

Posted at 6:00 a.m.

Nicolas Berube

Nicolas Berube
The Press

Expired doses

According to data from Airfinity, the wasted doses would be made up of 73% doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 18% doses of AstraZeneca. This would be a “largely underestimated” assessment, since these data come from Western countries and millions of doses have been sent to developing countries and have not been taken into account.


A man tends to a shipment of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines sent through the COVAX program, at the airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in July 2021.


Although the numbers are large, they represent about 2% of the total number of doses manufactured worldwide. According to the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), some 12 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been manufactured globally by the end of 2021, a number expected to reach 24 billion doses by mid-2020. 2022.

Supply difficulties

Virologist Benoit Barbeau, professor at UQAM, points out that countries buying vaccines multiplied orders last year, when the difficult supply of vaccines made the headlines and factories failed to supply or had significant delays. “Then when the stocks arrived, there were plenty of them. In some places, the demand was perhaps less strong than we had anticipated and, therefore, there were losses. It’s not ideal, it’s a regrettable situation. »


Virologist Benoit Barbeau, professor at UQAM

Less than 1 million

This is the number of vaccine doses in the Canadian central inventory that have become expired since January 2022, according to Health Canada. Before that, the administration and supply of vaccines were done at the same rate, which reduced losses to a minimum. “This does not include doses that would have expired in provincial or territorial stockpiles,” according to Health Canada, which notes that 118 million doses of vaccine have been imported into Canada since December 2020.

COVAX Misfires

Internationally, the COVAX initiative, led by the World Health Organization and whose objective is to ensure equitable access to vaccines against COVID-19, has also experienced failures. “It was quite a headache,” says Mr. Barbeau. It is a wish to use this grouping to ensure that developing countries receive vaccine doses, but we know that some are lost, which are not used. If you have a surplus in your country and you send it to another country, the country must have enough time to use the doses, there must be workers to give the doses. Otherwise, we risk losses. It’s a matter of logistics. »

Example from Nigeria

The daily The world investigated the example of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with 219 million people, which received 2.6 million doses of vaccine from Western countries last October. However, the expiry date of the vaccines was then only four to seven weeks, a period of time too short to carry out tests on their quality, as well as to regulate the legal requirements. The investigation shows that only 1.5 million doses could be administered in time. The rest was buried underground in a dump near Abuja, the capital. Barely 10% of people in Nigeria have received a dose of the vaccine so far, while 5% are fully vaccinated.


A woman receives one of the country’s first vaccines at a hospital in Lagos, Nigeria in March 2021.

Conservative expiry date

Vaccine manufacturers are cautious when indicating an expiry date for vaccine doses, notes Benoit Barbeau. “It was done in a hurry, in the beginning. But I think it can be adjusted, because we realize that these are products that are very stable for the most part. But the companies [pharmaceutiques] didn’t. Why ? It is certain that the shorter the expiry date, the more people will buy it. It would be a good time to adjust the shot. »

With the collaboration of Mélanie Marquis, The Press

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