About 240 Mil. Unused COVID-19 Vaccine Doses to Be Discarded; Free Vaccination Program Ended

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
COVID-19 vaccines

The government is planning to discard about 240 million unused COVID-19 vaccines, as new variant strains have become dominant and the number of people receiving the vaccine has leveled off.

The government ended its free vaccination program for COVID-19 at the end of last month.

A total of 436.2 million vaccinations have been administered, according to the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday.

The government began vaccinations in February 2021, with the elderly receiving a maximum of seven doses.

The government signed purchase contracts with pharmaceutical manufacturers for 928.4 million doses, canceled contracts for about 200 million doses, and provided about 40 million doses to overseas countries.

Of the 46.4 million doses of vaccine purchased by the government since last summer, about 18 million unused doses will be discarded even though they have not expired.

The Yomiuri Shimbun tallied the number of vaccinations by manufacturer based on data released by the Prime Minister’s Office. It found that vaccines made by U.S. company Pfizer Inc. accounted for the largest number of vaccinations, about 342.8 million, or about 79%, followed by those made by U.S. company Moderna Inc. with about 92.9 million, or about 21%. Vaccines from AstraZeneca PLC of the United Kingdom, Novavax Inc. of the United States and Daiichi Sankyo Co. each accounted for less than 0.1%.

The Daiichi Sankyo product was the first domestically produced vaccine to be used in practice late last year. Although the government purchased 1.4 million doses from the company, only about 70,000 doses were administered.

Routine vaccinations will be offered from this autumn to people aged 65 and older and to people aged 60 to 64 with serious underlying conditions. The maximum amount to be paid individually will be ¥7,000.

It is expected that others will be vaccinated voluntarily and will have to pay the full cost.