Some vaccine wastage is inevitable, HSE tells pharmacists


Unused Covid-19 vaccines in state mass immunization centers will not be sent to countries in need, the Health Service Executive told a group of pharmacists who complained about what they have qualified as “unnecessary waste”.

Last week, it emerged that the Group of 16 wrote to Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly warning that thousands of Covid-19 vaccines will not be used.

This was a request from the HSE that any unused or expired AstraZeneca or Janssen vaccines should be returned and could be removed from refrigerators, rendering them unusable.

Indeed, the Janssen single dose program was drawing to a close and the AstraZeneca second dose vaccines were almost all administered. The group called for the remaining vaccines to be sent to pharmacies or to countries with limited access to vaccines.

On Thursday, the HSE responded in a letter saying that a certain amount of unused stock will be inevitable.

The health service said that because vaccines at community vaccination centers had “already been distributed from our central cold chain storage unit, they would not be eligible for redistribution given the chain of custody (even if they are maintained in cold chain conditions) via the Covax program or probably through any future bilateral agreement with a third country ”.

Expiration date

However, the HSE said there may be excess inventory in the central cold chain unit at the end of the program.

“We are working with government services to set up bilateral agreements with other countries taking into account the expiration date of these vaccines. Although the business process is defined, there are legal, compensation and regulatory issues that must be agreed with any other country before such transfers can take place. “

The health service said a temporary halt in further deliveries of AstraZenca and Janssen to Ireland has been notified to the EU Vaccines Steering Group. “This ensures that these vaccines are available for redistribution if needed. “

The HSE told pharmacists that any vaccine donation should have the same quality standards as when the product was shipped from the manufacturing facility.

“The expiration date may be shorter depending on how long the product has been in Ireland.”

Officials have been working to determine how many doses remaining there will be in centers across the country. In the letter, the HSE said that “while it is unfortunate that a vaccine is not used, it is important that individuals receive the recommended vaccines in accordance with current Department of Health policy, based on recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (Niac).

Unused stock

“The existence of unused vaccines is unfortunately a consequence when package size is large and policy is constantly changing.

“We continue to manage this to minimize unused inventory, but some unused inventory is inevitable on a program as complex as this. “

It came as Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly called on the Health Ministry to ensure that all surplus vaccines are sent to third countries to avoid unnecessary waste.

“The difficulties and concerns caused by the new Delta variant are obvious, but we must not forget that there are many countries that do not have the same access to vaccines as we do.

“So we have to use every drop, and if we have an oversupply, we have to export the excess to help those who need it. It doesn’t make sense to have a situation where vaccines are destroyed just because they’ve been stored past their expiration dates. ”

Meanwhile, the letter from HSE read: “Based on administration records and currently delivered vaccines, community vaccination centers have received 80% of the total amount of AstraZeneca Vaxzevria vaccine distributed, with 98% of those doses. delivered registered as administered. Deliveries ended in early July.

“These vaccines will be administered until the cohorts are completed.

“About 28 community vaccination centers received 29% of the total quantity of Janssen Covid-19 vaccines distributed, with 91% of those delivered doses recorded as administered. Deliveries ended on June 1st.

“These vaccines will be administered until the cohorts are completed,” the letter said.

“As the doses are packaged in boxes of 50 or 100, the number of unopened boxes remaining in community vaccination centers is still unknown. “

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