MOH Dumped Some Improperly Stored Covid-19 Vaccines

The government has ordered 88.1 million Covid-19 vaccine doses, worth RM4.72 billion, as of Feb 18. 58% are Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines that require ultra-cold storage.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 3 – Some Covid-19 vaccine doses are being thrown away due to mishandling and storage errors, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH).

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, in a written parliamentary reply yesterday, said one of the reasons for Covid-19 vaccine wastage at vaccination centres (PPVs) and at storage facilities was the accidental thawing of vaccines following a cold chain breach.

However, the amount of batches affected was not disclosed. Khairy said data on the vaccine spoilage will need to be assessed in detail before the information is made public.

“At the moment, the MOH is compiling and verifying all information related to the disposal, and this process will be carried out continuously until the end of the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK),” Khairy said in response to Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng’s question on the matter.

When CodeBlue asked Khairy about the matter at his press conference today, Khairy said he would provide data in writing on the dumping of improperly stored Covid-19 vaccine doses.

According to the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit, if the cold chain is not properly maintained, vaccine potency may be lost, resulting in a useless vaccine supply. 

All Covid-19 vaccines must be stored properly from the time they are manufactured until they are administered.

The CDC guideline states that potency of the Covid-19 vaccines is reduced every time a vaccine is exposed to an improper condition, including overexposure to heat, cold, or light at any step in the cold chain. Once lost, potency cannot be restored.

The Malaysian government has made orders for 88.1 million Covid-19 vaccine doses, as of February 18, 2022, costing a total RM4.72 billion, enough to cover 143.13 per cent or 46.03 million of the country’s adult, adolescent, and child population. 

The bulk of the order consists of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccines (51.4 million doses or 58.3 per cent) that require storage at minus 70 degrees Celsius. Other vaccine brands can be stored at normal fridge temperatures of between two and eight degrees Celsius.

Apart from mishandling vaccines with special refrigeration needs, Covid-19 vaccines could also go to waste because they were unclaimed or have expired.

CodeBlue last week reported that over 409,000 AstraZeneca doses may go to waste from the latest and final batch of 1,365,200 AstraZeneca shots received on February 16 from the government’s direct order of 6.4 million doses.

Khairy responded by saying that the government has “never thrown away any vaccines” and has plans to donate some that are just months away from expiry to countries that need them.

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