Are expired COVID-19 vaccines a waste of taxpayers’ money?

are expired covid 19 vaccines a waste of taxpayers money

Around S$140 million worth of COVID-19 vaccines have expired. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung described this as ‘insurance premium’, the price that Singapore is prepared to pay to stave of catastrophic consequences

The PAP Government realised early on during the pandemic, that vaccines were our safe exit from the pandemic. They decided to act early to place their bets on a number of vaccines that were still being developed. 

The choice of vaccines had to be made against insufficient information since it was not clear which vaccines would work. Hence, there was deliberate over-procurement to ensure that if one does not work, there will be enough doses from another to cover the whole population. This is why we have expired vaccines. 

Memories are short.

Now that we have safely exit from the pandemic, some people have criticised the Government for wasting taxpayers’ money with their deliberate over-procurement of vaccines. 

Fortunately, a vast majority still remembers. 

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Because of our high vaccination rate, lives are spared. Our COVID-19 death rate is just one-tenth of the death rate in the US and the UK. 

There were 1711 deaths. It could easily have been over 17,000 deaths had our population not been vaccinated. 

Please don't forget!

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When PM Lee announced the first shipment of the Pfizer-Biotech vaccine in December 2020, Singapore heaved a huge sigh of relief. Singapore was one of the first countries in the world to obtain the vaccine

We didn't wait.

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We didn’t wait. We procured our supplies early because as Minister Ong said, we were mindful that as a small countries, we do not have negotiating power. We would have pushed us down the queue for delivery had we not made early procurement. 

Money can be earned back...

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Indeed, lives are more valuable than money. That we have expired vaccines means we are lucky. 

Singapore, in wanting to assure a steady vaccine supply for everyone eligible, invested heavily in advance purchase agreements with vaccine producers in 2020, even before manufacturers like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna had completed their Phase 3 clinical trials.

Our high vaccination rate helps to reduce the stress on the healthcare system

We were spared the extreme moral dilemma some countries faced in deciding which patients would get a ventilator, and the dire scenes of refrigerated trucks serving as temporary morgues.

Dr David Matchar, a Professor at the Health Services and Systems Research Programme at Duke-NUS Medical School, said:

“As part of a team attempting to understand the dynamics of epidemics, I can attest that predicting vaccine needs is what policy literature calls a ‘wicked problem’, not only because it is complex, but because the requirements for a solution are incomplete, contradictory and difficult to recognise. 

Estimating the number of doses needed to avoid catastrophe will always involve planning for the worst plausible situation. Wastage may not reflect poor planning, it may mean that we were lucky to have avoided worse.”


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