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18 Dec, 2023 11:39

EU states threw away €4 billion worth of Covid vaccines – Politico

Over 200 million coronavirus jabs were reportedly sent to landfills simply because they were no longer needed
EU states threw away €4 billion worth of Covid vaccines – Politico

The EU has reportedly dumped at least 215 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines since they were first purchased at the height of the pandemic, an analysis by Politico has revealed. In an article on Sunday, the outlet estimated that the junked jabs cost the bloc’s taxpayers as much as €4 billion ($4.37 billion).

Following the approval of the first coronavirus vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, in 2021 the EU hastily entered a contract with the US pharmaceutical giant to purchase 1.1 billion doses - a decision that was met with no scrutiny at the time but has since become the subject of a probe in which EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen plays a controversial role. 

That contract effectively forced EU countries to buy the doses despite the fact that the pandemic was already winding down. As noted by Politico, efforts to donate the excess to developing countries had also failed due to logistical issues and falling demand.

Over the course of the pandemic, the EU ultimately received at least 1.5 billion doses; an estimated 3 jabs per person. However, the member states, according to Politico’s calculations, ended up discarding an average of 0.7 jabs for every member of the population, with Estonia and Germany being the most wasteful, throwing away nearly one dose per inhabitant.  

The outlet admits that its calculations are only estimates because governments have been reluctant to actually report or reveal the scale of the waste. However, Politico insists that its calculations are likely underestimated, if anything.

The EU’s wastefulness and questionable deal with Pfizer have also come with political blowback and von der Leyen has been under fire ever since it emerged that she had privately communicated with the pharmaceutical giant’s CEO Albert Bourla via text messages and phone calls while the deal was still being negotiated.

The Commission has refused to comment on the issue and has claimed that Von der Leyen’s text messages with big pharma on deals worth multiple billions of dollars could not be found. 

Meanwhile, Poland and Hungary, which have refused to accept any more vaccines, are now being sued by Pfizer for non-payment, while in Romania, prosecutors are looking to try the country’s former prime minister and two health ministers for causing over €1 billion in damages to the state through unnecessary vaccine purchases.

Despite the reported wastefulness, the jabs will continue to flow to the EU under the Pfizer contract at least until 2027. The bloc was previously set to receive an additional 450 million doses in 2023 but under a revised deal in May, that total was brought down and spread over the next four years. Brussels, however, has not clarified how many doses are still yet to be received or how many each country will have to buy.

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