The number of COVID-19 vaccines which are likely to have been wasted since the global roll out began is estimated to be 1.1 billion.
Airfinity’s analysis has assumed a 10% wastage rate from June 2021 when global dose sharing began. This rate is taken from confirmed wastage in the United States and factors in an average shelf life of six months.
Today’s estimate highlights a significant underreporting of vaccine wastage. Our team have also collated all public reports of vaccine wastage and expiry from around the world, which totals 158 million doses.
The majority of this reporting does not specify which vaccine type has been discarded. 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.
Airfinity’s Analytics Director Dr Matt Linley says, “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. Pfizer/BioNTech’s most recent agreement with the U.S. includes single doses, a first for COVID-19 vaccine, and a stipulation we expect to be repeated by other nations”.
Airfinity’s CEO and co-founder Rasmus Bech Hansen says, “While wastage at any level is undesirable, it is the result of unprecedented vaccine production which has saved millions of lives. Vaccine protection from COVID-19 wanes over time and more targeted booster shots will continue to be the world’s best way to shield the vulnerable. 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.”
*In general, for all vaccines, the GAVI Alliance recommended countries to aim for a maximum wastage rate of 25% for the first year, with a gradual reduction to 15% by the third year. For vaccines in single-dose or two-dose vials, the maximum wastage allowance target is 5%. In case of the COVID-19 vaccines, the GAVI Alliance assumed in its calculations that the rate of wastage could be 10%. Meanwhile, based on the limited reports of COVID-19 vaccine doses wasted in countries, the wastage rate ranges between 1-7%, which points to potential significant underreporting, since most of the COVID-19 vaccines are in multi-dose vials.