Germany has disposed of 83 million doses of coronavirus vaccines and has another 120 million doses in stock, even as the number of people applying for vaccination in the country is falling dramatically.
According to the country’s health ministry, Germany will have scrapped 54 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine by the end of 2022 and a further 29 million doses in the first quarter of 2023.
The actual figure is likely to be higher, however, as the ministry did not release wastage figures for the second quarter of this year; it also stressed that states and healthcare providers are not obliged to report how many vaccines are discarded, according to Hungarian news outlet Magyar Nemzet.
“Accordingly, the total amount of all discarded coronavirus vaccines purchased by Germany cannot be quantified,” the German Federal Ministry of Health said in response to a request from the Brussels-based news agency Politico.
Meanwhile, a further 120 million doses are still sitting in warehouses, waiting for the Germans to start buying vaccines again. However, the chances of this amount being used up are extremely low, as the latest figures from the EU’s epidemiological office show that a total of 268 doses were administered in Germany in one week in early June. In the previous three weeks, a total of 1,462 people were vaccinated.
And yet, despite the tens of millions of vaccines expected to be discarded, more are on their way, as EU countries, including Germany, can expect to receive more vaccines following the recent agreement between the European Commission and U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. The exact amount destined for the bloc has not been made public, but according to a source at the confidential meetings who spoke to Politico, 260 million doses of vaccines will be delivered to EU member states over the next four years.
One of the most controversial aspects is the ongoing scandal regarding how the vaccines were ordered in the first place, with a huge amount of vaccines ordered at sky-high prices. The European Parliament’s (EP) special committee dealing with the coronavirus pandemic previously decided to call on Ursula von der Leyen to appear before them publicly and answer questions regarding suspicions of corruption in the procurement of vaccines.
After the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic, Brussels concluded a contract worth €35 billion in 2020 for the purchase of 1.8 billion doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the coronavirus with the American-German pharmaceutical company.
In April 2021, The New York Times reported that Ursula von der Leyen and the CEO of Pfizer, Albert Bourla, exchanged text messages that facilitated a vaccine procurement agreement that brought huge profits to the pharmaceutical company. At the time the contract was concluded, in December 2020, the president’s husband, Heiko von der Leyen, also became the director of the pharmaceutical company Orgenesis, which works closely with Pfizer.
After the publication of the article in the New York Times, a journalist tried to request public access to the text messages, and when he did not receive them, he turned to the EU ombudsman. The EU body established the facts related to the abuse of office and called for a wider investigation into the messages, while the European Court of Auditors, the EU’s budget control body, testified that it did not receive the requested information from the European Commission for its September report on the preliminary negotiations on vaccine procurement.
However, since none of the EU institutions has been able to shed light on the murky case, at the end of last year, the independent organization of the European Union, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, launched an investigation into the procurement of vaccines.
Despite the commission’s request, Albert Bourla did not appear before them in person, and due to his behavior, the special committee called for Pfizer officials to be banned from the European Parliament.
Europe continues to pay
Although vaccination rates are likely to rise in the autumn as health systems prepare for seasonal infections, there is little chance that this will make a meaningful difference in the level of vaccine disposal. Germany has a population of 83 million, and 192 million vaccinations were administered during the pandemic’s peak.
The resulting cost of so many vaccines having been ordered and then essentially disposed of are almost certain to run into the billions of euros.
While the ministry did not say what types of vaccines were being or had been discarded, it did say that of the 29 million vaccines that expired by the end of the first quarter of 2023, 5 million were Moderna, 18 million BioNTech/Pfizer, and a further 6 million Novavax.
Assuming a similar distribution between types for the doses that expired at the end of 2022 and the remaining 120 million unused vaccines, the total value of unused vaccines could be roughly €4 billion, according to the amounts set out in the leaked vaccine purchase contracts.