MANILA (UPDATE) — The number of COVID-19 vaccine doses that went to waste in the country has increased to 44 million, the Department of Health said Friday.
According to DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire, the figure represents 17.5 percent of the total coronavirus jabs delivered in the country.
Last month, the health agency disclosed that the wastage rate was pegged at 12 percent, which is equivalent to more than 31 million vaccine shots or an estimated cost of P15.6 billion.
"Gusto lang ho namin ipaalam sa ating mga kababayan na 'yung ating mga reports for vaccine wastage, it is progressive kasi continuous ang inventories natin araw-araw," Vergeire said in a press briefing.
"Now, it is already at 44 million based on our inventories."
Vergeire said some 24 million doses expired due to short shelf life.
The other 3.8 million shots were from "operational wastage" such as temperature excursion, discoloration and natural disaster.
The DOH is also determining how the other 5 percent or 2.2 million of the 44 million vaccine doses went to waste.
She did not disclose the cause for the other wasted vaccines.
In the briefing, Vergeire said majority of the wasted vaccines or 75 percent were procured by the private sector and local governments.
Of the total wasted doses, about 4-5 percent were donated and 2 percent were procured by the national government, she added.
Courtesy of DOH
In a past briefing, Vergeire explained that vaccine wastage is not unique to the Philippines.
While vaccine wastage may be attributed primarily to short life span, the public's vaccine hesitancy and complacency are also key factors.
She has also said that the country's vaccine wastage rate is considered acceptable based on the recommendation of the World Health Organization.
The UN health agency earlier set the threshold of vaccine wastage at 10 percent but has raised it to up to 30 percent.
This week, the DOH said it "proactively" asked the Commission on Audit to conduct a special audit of the multibillion-peso loan granted by lending institutions for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.
This came after COA disclosed that the World Bank and Asian Development Bank sought a special audit of the vaccine procurement deals.
"Certainly, we will support and cooperate with this audit process," Vergeire said.
As of November 20, more than 73.7 million Filipinos are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Of the figure, 20.8 million have received their first boosters.
Due to low uptake of additional jabs, the DOH is set to conduct a 3-day nationwide vaccination drive from December 5-7.
The "Bakunahang Bayan: Special COVID-19 Vaccination Days Part II" aims to increase booster uptake and vaccination coverage among children aged 5 to 11.