An estimated 1.1 billion Covid-19 vaccines may have been wasted since the global rollout began, says science analytics company Airfinity, at a time when parts of the globe still see below-par vaccination coverage.

Russian vaccine Sputnik V and AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine are mentioned among those wasted, though a majority of the waste reporting cases do not mention names of the vaccines, it added.

Airfinity’s analysis assumes a 10 per cent wastage rate from June 2021 when global dose-sharing began. This rate is taken from confirmed wastage in the US and factors in an average shelf life of six months, it said.

The estimate highlights significant underreporting of vaccine wastage, the analytics firm said, adding that they had also collated public reports of vaccine wastage and expiry from around the world, which totals 158 million doses.

Outlining the reason behind vaccines being wasted, Airfinity Analytics Director, Matt Linley, said it may have been for a wide range of reasons. “From expiry, issues with cold chain storage, multi-dose vials being unfinished, vials being broken, vaccine demand changing, vaccine deliveries being discarded,” he said, in a response to Business Line.

While the majority of waste reporting does not specify which vaccine type had been discarded, the report said Russia’s Sputnik V and AstraZeneca’s names come up in those that do mention details. “Of those which do name the manufacturer Russia’s Sputnik V has the most with over 25 million doses known to have been unused. This is followed by AstraZeneca with claims of 19 million wasted jabs,” it said.

“Despite countries best efforts to avoid wastage, some degree is inevitable. Large multi-dose vials can make efficiencies more challenging, as well as cold chain storage and predicting daily demand or simply a vial being dropped or left out too long. Vaccines in single dose vials with a longer shelf life, which can be transported and stored more easily will reduce wastage over time,” said Linley.

Airfinity Chief Executive and co-founder, Rasmus Bech Hansen, added that wastage at any level, while undesirable, resulted from the unprecedented vaccine production that had saved millions of lives. “If we want a fast reacting global vaccine response system, we will have to accept some level of wasted doses. But the less the better and monitoring the wastage levels ongoing is an important piece of global health information,” he added.

Airfinity noted, based on the limited reports, that the wastage rate of Covid-19 vaccine doses in countries ranged between 1-7 percent, which points to potential significant underreporting, since most of the COVID-19 vaccines are in multi-dose vials.

Giving the general estimate of wastage for all vaccines, Airfinity said, the GAVI Vaccine Alliance recommended countries to aim for a maximum wastage rate of 25 per cent for the first year, down to 15 per cent by the third year. For vaccines in single-dose or two-dose vials, the maximum wastage allowance target is 5 per cent. In the case of Covid vaccines, the GAVI Alliance assumed, the rate of wastage could be 10 per cent.

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