Only 18% of the global population, and 1% of people in low-income countries, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, reports show that European countries are currently throwing away thousands of expired vaccine doses.
Earlier this week, the EU reached its target of 70% of the adult population vaccinated with one dose or more. This makes the bloc one of the world leaders in its vaccination campaign. But, many doses are being left to expire before being discarded.
One of the reasons for this is people not showing up for vaccination appointments. This causes a problem with Pfizer-BioNTech doses in particular as, after being diluted, the vaccine must be stored at low temperatures and used within six hours.
Although the exact number of wasted doses is not clear, individual countries have released their own figures and they show a worrying trend.
For example, reports show that in Lithuania, over 20,000 doses have been thrown away since the start of the campaign. In Poland, the health ministry says 73,000 doses have been wasted so far, and this is due to rise in the coming weeks.
Other countries including Germany, the Czech Republic, and France, have reported having to destroy thousands of doses of Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Janssen vaccines due to expiration, lack of storage, breakage, and other reasons.
Could some doses be donated?
The WHO has urged richer countries to donate some of their doses to lower-income countries where possible. Disposing of doses of the vaccine should be a last resort.
According to the agency, the global effort could be improved significantly if doses were shared with other countries, but still allowing enough time before the expiry date so they can be used.
In addition to this, a spokesperson for the Commission has said that vaccines ordered in advance from developers could also be donated, and the EU has committed to delivering at least 200 million doses to low-income countries this year.
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