COVID-19 vaccines were produced and distributed at breakneck speed, now millions of excess doses around the globe are about to expire.

·2 min read
coronavirus vaccine doses
Technicians sort doses of the Pfizer vaccine at the Virginia Hospital Center on December 16, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Millions of vaccine doses around the world are set to expire amid the ongoing pandemic.

  • Vaccine efforts generate some waste, but the massive COVID-19 vaccine rollout could spell disaster.

  • The vaccination effort was unprecedented, given the scale and severity of this pandemic.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine around the world will expire in the coming weeks as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.

Though vaccines were developed, produced, and distributed at unprecedented speeds, a number of factors - including vaccine hesitancy and misinformation - contributed to a number of doses going unused.

Vaccination distribution programs usually do produce waste, but Prashant Yadav, a healthcare supply chain expert at at the Center for Global Development, told The Washington Post there is "no one who tracks expired doses systematically," making it difficult to know just how many doses are going to waste.

While there is no official global counter on how many doses expire on shelves, local news reports have painted a picture of vaccine waste around the globe.

In Israel, 80,000 COVID-19 doses were due to expire in late July, according to local media. The Bulgarian government announced last month it was looking to donate its expiring vaccines, having received nearly 5 million doses but only using 1.8 million.

Hundreds of thousands of vaccines will expire in the Netherlands as well, though well over half the population there has already been inoculated. But the Dutch government has been throwing away doses, citing legal and logistical reasons for why they can't be donated and exported, according to The Post's report.

"It's an elitist, decadent attitude," Dennis Mook-Kanamori, a doctor at Leiden University Medical Center, told the newspaper.

In Africa, where a little more than 2% of the population has received at least one dose, more than 450,000 doses expired as of early August, according to data by the World Health Organization.

"Most of the vaccines arriving have a very short expiration date," Richard Mihigo, coordinator of immunization and vaccine development for the WHO regional office in Africa, told The Post.

In the US, millions of vaccines have been tossed amid the divide among Americans regarding health safety guidelines like mask mandates and vaccine requirements. Alabama got rid of 65,000 vaccine doses, Iowa scrapped more than 81,000, and a little more than 110,000 vaccine shots were dumped in Georgia, according to local reports.

"The doses we have aren't enough," Lawrence Gostin, global health law professor at Georgetown University, told The Post. "They're expiring, they're spoiling with electrical shortages, they're not being delivered to the population. It's a whole catastrophe."

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