At least 215 million expired doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been thrown away so far in the European Union, at an estimated cost of €4 billion, a recent analysis published by Politico shows. The real figure could be much higher since a third of EU countries refuse to disclose or update their data.
During the height of the pandemic, the vast majority of COVID vaccines that arrived in Europe were purchased through a joint procurement program led by Brussels. But what seemed like a good idea back then—letting the Commission negotiate on behalf of the bloc for the sake of speed and efficiency—turned out quite differently.
Europe not only paid more on average than the rest of the world but also watched as the Commission ordered 4.2 billion doses or nearly nine for every single European. Initially, 1.8 billion doses were ordered from Pfizer alone—enough to call the purchase “the biggest corruption scandal in history,” especially after Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen still refuses to disclose her text messages to Pfizer CEO and family acquaintance Albert Bourla from the time despite repeated calls from the European Ombudsman.
Now, most EU countries struggle with hundreds of millions of redundant doses that are slowly but surely going to expire.
According to the available data, at least 215 million doses have been discarded so far, for which taxpayers paid roughly €4 billion—the amount Croatia spends on its healthcare an entire year. But, since this data is partial at best, the figure is “almost certainly a minimum,” Politico wrote.
Per @politico: the #EU has thrown out €4B to €5.8B worth of expired #COVID19 vaccines so far; a lot more to be discarded next year. All thanks to @vonderleyen's excessive procurement. #PfizerGate pic.twitter.com/1Xrbj5N9Wv— Tamás Orbán (@TamasOrbanEC) December 18, 2023
Only 15 member states disclosed their data, while there were available figures reported by national media in the case of four others, albeit all between 7 and 12 months old.
There’s a good reason why a country won’t necessarily advertise its loss to its own people—former Romanian PM Florin Cîțu, for instance, is being investigated for allegedly causing €1 billion in damage to the state by accepting unnecessary vaccine doses.
Those who refused to accept additional deliveries once it became clear that they would only have to throw them out—Poland and Hungary—have been dragged to court by Pfizer.
Nonetheless, the available data shows that the countries in question have discarded at least 0.7 doses per person on average. Projected to the rest of the EU, this would equal 312 million discarded vaccine doses so far, or about €5.8 billion wasted.
Very soon, however, these figures are set to grow even further. Germany has disclosed that it has discarded 83 million vaccine doses (worth €1.6 billion) so far, the highest amount in Europe—although not per capita (that’s reserved for Estonia with 1.1 expired jabs per person). Berlin, however, also said a few months ago that it was sitting on a stockpile of 120 million additional doses (worth another €2.4 billion) set to expire early next year. As the demand for vaccination continues to diminish, that stockpile will most likely also end up in landfills.