Estonia looking at writing off over 700,000 vaccine doses

COVID vaccination underway at East Tallinn Central Hospital (ITK).
COVID vaccination underway at East Tallinn Central Hospital (ITK). Source: Raigo Pajula/ITK

Over 700,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines are set to expire this spring and will probably have to be written off. At the same time, Estonia has contracts in place for another 1.3 million doses of Covid vaccines. The National Audit Office recommends reducing incoming quantities.

The Health Board had around 1.6 million doses of Covid vaccines at the end of last year, with 700,000 doses set to expire between February and May.

While vaccine manufacturers have extended the use by dates of their products before, the Health Board couldn't say whether it will be done in this case.

Considering how much Estonia has spent on Covid vaccines in total, 700,000 doses could be valued at around €9-10 million. To compare, just 68,000 doses of vaccine spoiled due to a Health Board warehouse malfunction in the summer of 2021.

Around 390,000 doses have been made available to healthcare services providers, and the Health Board does not know how many of those have spoiled or been administered.

Auditor General Janar Holm told ERR that even though the number of doses to be written off is considerable, crisis-time decisions cannot really be condemned.

"Decisions need to be seen in their own time. When Estonia decided to buy these vaccine quantities, it seemed like the only way to escape the Covid crisis," Holm said, adding that it would have been far worse had the crisis grown worse while Estonia did not have enough vaccines.

Over a million more doses coming

Existing contracts will see more vaccine doses arrive in Estonia, with the Health Board set to take delivery of 78,145 doses of the Moderna vaccine in late February. Its contract with Pfizer is good for another 1.3 million doses.

ERR learned from the Ministry of Social Affairs that as the need for vaccines has sharply fallen everywhere in Europe, the European Commission is in talks with Pfizer-BioNTech to reduce the number of doses it needs, while no agreements have been made. The pharmaceutical giant has suspended deliveries for the duration of the talks.

Janar Holm said that it is important for Estonia to try and reduce the quantities it receives in order to minimize financial loss.

Since vaccines hit the market, Estonia has entered into obligations to buy 6.8 million vaccine doses worth €97 million. Most have or will come from Pfizer (4.4 million doses). Estonia has taken delivery of 5.4 million doses so far and paid manufacturers €71 million.

2.1 million doses have been administered, while 770,000 have spoiled.

The Health Board said on Thursday that 1,204 cases of COVID-19 were registered last week.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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