In Austria there is a risk of a large-scale expiry of the vaccination doses. This is based on calculations by the aid organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Even if all those who are required to be vaccinated receive their first, second or third stitch in the first quarter and there are many child vaccinations, according to current forecasts, 10.2 million doses will be in stock by the end of March, explained MSF expert Marcus Bachmann. Seven million cans are currently unused.
“That is such a dramatic excess that it becomes very clear that there is an urgent need for action,” emphasized the pharmaceutical expert. He pointed out that the Vaccines have a comparatively short shelf life of six to nine months for medicinal products. Even if the “first in, first out” principle is consistently observed, things could get “tight” very soon, given the expiry dates, warned Bachmann. The forecast for the first quarter also takes into account 750,000 doses of the newly approved fifth Covid-19-Vaccine from Novavax.
It is difficult to pass on vaccination doses abroad. As Bachmann explained, the manufacturers have secured a right of veto, whereby Moderna in particular is very strict. Correspondingly, hundreds of thousands of Moderna cans in Austria could remain unused. Bachmann estimates that of the 3.3 million cans delivered, around half are still in warehouses. According to the data entered in the electronic vaccination card, only 1.4 million doses have been vaccinated so far.
However, Bachmann expects the biggest discrepancy at AstraZeneca. Of the vaccine, which has hardly been inoculated since the summer, Austria received 5.2 million doses. 2.2 million cans were donated. Of the remaining three million, however, “much less was vaccinated”.
There are no exact figures on the inventory. From the data published by the Ministry of Health, however, a stock level of around 8.2 million vaccine doses can be derived – almost seven million of which are centrally stored, the rest have been delivered but not yet vaccinated. Seven million cans are to be added in the first quarter of 2022. However, despite mandatory vaccinations and booster vaccinations, 5.6 million doses would be needed at best, the expert calculated. This need is a “theoretical best-case scenario” and is based on the fact that all those requiring vaccination are vaccinated or boosted and also “a good part” of the five to eleven year old children.
The mismatch between full camps in Austria and a shortage of vaccines in large parts of the world shows for the expert that a “change of strategy” is needed in the vaccine supply. The concept of compulsory licenses proposed by Economics Minister Margarete Schramböck (ÖVP) is too slow, too expensive and insufficient to be effective quickly enough.
In conclusion, Bachmann pointed out that the Omikron variant could only arise because of the high number of infections and the low vaccination rates. If you continue the previous policy, “then I fear that this is the best basis for further variants that can do even more” because they are more infectious or more deadly than the previous ones, says Bachmann.