9.75 million COVID-19 doses wasted, P3 billion unused

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star
9.75 million COVID-19 doses wasted, P3 billion unused
A health worker holds a vial of a bivalent coronavirus vaccine on June 21, 2023.
PPA pool photo / Niño Jesus Orbeta

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) has called out the Department of Health (DOH) over the “wastage” of COVID-19 vaccines totaling 9,751,301.50 doses and failure to utilize P3.056 billion in COVID-19 funds for 2022.

In its 2022 annual audit report on the DOH, the COA said the health agency’s “lapses in the distribution and utilization” of COVID-19 vaccines resulted in their wastage due to various reasons such as expiration, temperature excursion, broken vial, defective syringe, theft, improper label or lack of label, destruction by fire, destruction due to Typhoon Odette, “operational wastage” and spillage.

The audit body said some vaccines were found to have “particulate matter” and “black particles” while some vials were “empty,” “underdose” or were “thawed but not used.”

The COA did not specify the total cost of the wasted COVID-19 vaccines.

The audit breakdown, however, showed that the bulk of wasted vaccines totaling 4,506,913 doses carried the brand AztraZeneca, followed by Moderna (1,718,887.50 doses), Janssen (1,034,638 doses), Pfizer-Adult (914,175 doses), Sinovac (719,207 doses), Pfizer-Pedia (426,430 doses), Sputnik I (309,721 doses), Sputnik II (107,866 doses), Gamaleya II (12,991 doses), Sinopharm (453 doses) and Gamaleya I (20 doses).

Found responsible for the bulk of wasted vaccines or 3,729,701.50 doses was Metro Manila, followed by Central Luzon with 3,560,173 doses; Eastern Visayas, 1,671,878 doses; Caraga, 786,647 doses and Ilocos region with 2,902 doses.

The COA noted that the vaccine wastage was brought about by the “acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines near expiry because these were allocated to them by the National Vaccination Operations Center, otherwise, expiration will occur at the storage of origin.”

The audit teams also said donations from other countries have increased the level of inventory prior to the delivery of the procured COVID-19 vaccines, which affected the national forecasting and estimation of inventory for distribution.

COA also cited the unrealistic forecasting and estimation vis-a?-vis the eligible and willing population group.

Unutilized funds

Meanwhile, in the same audit report, the COA also admonished the DOH over its failure to utilize P3.056 billion allocated by Congress for its COVID-19 pandemic response for 2022.

The COA noted that of the P37.507-billion COVID-19 funds of the DOH, 91.85 percent or P34.451 billion was obligated as of yearend.

Of the obligated amount, 87.94 percent or P30.297 billion was actually disbursed, leaving unpaid obligations of P4.155 billion.

The audit body said the unobligated or unutilized amount of P3.056 billion was “considered substantial enough to affect the level of the DOH response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“This only means that despite the high utilization rates, the amount of P3,055,773,517.47 was available but not utilized for the purpose of addressing COVID-19 concerns,” the COA said.

“It should not be disregarded that out of the said unobligated allotments, P2,414,743,605.35 had lapsed and could no longer be used, indicating that the projects, programs and activities (PPAs) that should had been funded by this amount were not fully implemented,” the COA pointed out.

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