Singapore Health Minister Ong Ye Kung announced in Parliament on Tuesday (21 Mar) that approximately 15% of the country’s COVID-19 vaccine doses, valued at S$140 million, have expired.
This was said during the debate on the White Paper on Singapore’s response to COVID-19, where Mr Ong called this expiration an “insurance premium” Singapore was prepared to pay to prevent the catastrophic consequences of a vaccine shortage.
Before vaccines were available, Singapore implemented a circuit breaker in April 2020 to contain the pandemic, which cost around S$11 billion in Gross Domestic Product loss.
Additionally, the government spent nearly S$60 billion over two financial years to support businesses and workers during the crisis.
The early procurement of vaccines protected Singapore from further circuit breakers during the Delta and Omicron waves, saving lives and reducing hardships, said Mr Ong.
Mr. Ong emphasized that Singapore “deliberately over-procured” vaccines due to uncertainties surrounding the efficacy of different candidates and potential disruptions in supply chains.
This approach led to spare vaccine stock that eventually expired. Although the government attempted to donate excess vaccines, there were no takers due to an oversupply worldwide.
While Mr Ong expressed a preference for greater transparency regarding the expired vaccines but noted that suppliers agreed to reveal the total value only, without providing a quantity breakdown.
He added that the percentage of expired vaccines is expected to rise to around 25% before stabilizing.
Mr Ong notes that to prepare for potential future variants, Singapore’s multifaceted vaccine strategy will involve maintaining and periodically refreshing an adequate vaccine stock, retaining a network of vaccination centers, securing early access to vaccines against other pathogens, investing in vaccine research and development, and establishing six vaccine manufacturing plants in the country.