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Court of Auditors reveals ‘financial disaster’ behind Portugal’s purchase of Covid-19 vaccines

Country has already spent over €511 million on unadministered vaccines

“A financial disaster”: Portugal ordered 61,192,803 doses of Covid-19 vaccines by the end of last year, according to data from a Court of Auditors report revealed last week, but data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) shows that only 28,200,460 doses have been administered in this country so far. 

“Taking into account the time that has passed – and more purchases made in the meantime – the financial waste resulting from the secret prior purchase agreements negotiated by the European Commission under Ursula Von der Leyen and pharmaceutical companies will be disastrous, to say the least”, reports independent online Página Um.

“The Court of Auditors’ report is cautious – and even kind in its analysis – estimating that by the end of last year, when its analysis ends, the wastage rate was 11.2%, corresponding to a wastage of around 3.5 million doses. 

“But it stressed that wastage was likely to be higher, because the percentage of doses not yet administered compared to the total received at the time was already 42%, suggesting a worsening trend in the vaccine wastage rate over time. 

“As vaccination has run out of steam in recent months, to the point where uptake among the under-50s for the third booster has been practically nil, the loss of shelf life will have reached almost all the stock and orders arriving in the first few months of 2023”, Página Um continues.

But, not all of the vaccines have gone to waste. “Replacing the obscurantism of the Ministry of Health – which has maintained a stance of unspeakable secrecy – the Court of Auditors reveals that, up until last year, ‘the waste of excess doses was minimised through donations, resales and loans’, pointing out that 7.8 million doses of vaccines were donated to third countries, either through bilateral donations or the GAVI/COVAX mechanism; 1.8 million doses were resold; and 775,000 doses were loaned.

“In any case, these mechanisms will not have been as intense in the last three quarters of last year, let alone throughout 2023, because there is an excess of supply in the face of a shortage of demand”, the article continues.

“In fact, European uptake of the second and third boosters of the COVID-19 vaccine has been very low. As PAGINA UM revealed last week, in the countries covered by the ECDC only 14.7% of the population took the second booster and only 2.4% the third.

“Proof of the low uptake throughout 2022 – and also 2023 – can be seen in the low increase in doses administered between the end of last year – which, according to the Court of Auditors’ report, was 27,986,899 units – and the figure currently indicated for Portugal by the ECDC: 28,200,460 units.

“In other words, in the last six months only 215,561 doses have been administered in our country, according to the figures given by two credible organisations, increasing the amount of wasted doses.

“So, even if we exclude the orders placed this year – quantities that remain a secret of the gods, pending the ruling of the Lisbon Administrative Court on a PAGINA UM summons filed on December 31 last year – the difference between the purchases up to the end of 2022 (around 61.2 million doses) and the doses actually administered to Portuguese citizens so far (28.2 million doses) will therefore be 33 million doses. 

“In other words, the wastage rate will already reach 54 per cent, instead of the 42 per cent estimated for the end of last year by the Court of Auditors”.

Based on unit costs indicated by the Court of Auditors (€15.5 per dose), it can be concluded that the amount spent by the government on unadministered vaccines will already exceed €511 million, says the online.

“It should be remembered that adding up all the spending authorisations issued by Resolution of the Council of Ministers, the most recent of which was on September 22, the Portuguese government plans to spend a total of around €1.1 million euros on the purchase of vaccines by 2026”.

PAGINA UM concludes that Portugal has been “forced” to buy 408,000 doses from Novavax,even though the vaccine was only approved in April last year. 

The Court of Auditors even says that “almost 100 per cent of the doses ordered were wasted”.

“In fact, consulting the ECDC data, only 314 doses were administered, i.e. the real wastage was 99.9 per cent.

But this wasn’t the worst situation. “By cross-referencing the information on purchases by brand in the Court of Auditors’ report with the doses administered by brand on the ECDC website, we learn that Sanofi-GSK’s vaccine, Vidprevtyn, which was only authorised by the DGS in December last year, meant that Portugal ended up buying 830,400 doses under the Von de Leyen Commission agreements. According to the ECDC, only 77 doses of Vidprevtyn have been administered to date, or 0.0093% of the total.

Even Pfizer has, so far, an administration rate of less than 55%, which is still well above Moderna’s vaccine (35.5%), AstraZeneca’s (33.3%) and Janssen’s (28.8%).  

Of the vaccines administered in Portugal, according to ECDC data, 74% came from Pfizer, “which ended up completely dominating the national market”. Moderna had a 14% share, while AstraZeneca and Janssen – which don’t use mRNA technology – had 8% and 4% shares respectively, concludes the text.

Meantime in Portugal the autumn vaccination campaign combining flu and Covid-19 jabs, has begun in pharmacies, with this time only the over-60s qualifying.

Says SIC Notícias, “you can only be vaccinated at a pharmacy by appointment if you’re over 60, if you’ve already had a Covid-19 vaccination without a serious reaction and if you don’t have any health problems that could be a risk – such as heart, lung, kidney or liver problems. In these cases, the vaccines must be prescribed by a doctor and can only be given in a health centre”.

Source: Página UM/ SIC Notícias