2021.07.21 09:52

As Lithuania is forced to discard expired vaccines, donating them is tricky

Austėja Masiokaitė-Liubinienė, BNS2021.07.21 09:52

Lithuania recently had to discard over 14,000 expired coronavirus vaccines. The Health Ministry says it would have not been able to donate them to other countries due to complicated rules.

“Those vaccines that are already distributed to healthcare institutions cannot be taken from them, and the receiving countries would not be able to accept them,” Anželika Oraitė of the Health Ministry told BNS.

Her comment came in response to Lithuania's preparations to donate coronavirus vaccines to Eastern Partnership countries and Taiwan.

According to Oraitė, only institutions with a wholesale distribution license, like Lithuania's Health Emergency Situations Centre, or producers selling their own vaccines can export them.

Oraitė says that as some vaccines held by Lithuania are nearing expiry, attempts are being made to redistribute them within the country and to hand them over to institutions where they can be realistically used. The problem is that information about unused vaccines comes in late.

Two months for coordination

Two contracts are needed for vaccines to be handed over to a third country: a bilateral agreement between the countries and a trilateral agreement with the producer.

Draft agreements must be reviewed by the countries' institutions and their governments need to receive mandates. Then the European Commission needs to be informed and the producer's permission to hand vaccines over must be received.

“Realistically, it takes up to two months from the signing [of agreements] to the delivery,” Oraitė said.

“Lithuania itself did not buy the vaccines, they were bought by the European Commission on behalf of member states. Therefore, every step related to the resale or donation of the vaccines is monitored,” the representatives of the Health Ministry said.

The European Commission has agreed on the donation of vaccines with only one producer, AstraZeneca, according to Oraitė. It means that only vaccines produced by this company can be donated. Otherwise, countries would breach the existing contracts with vaccine producers.

The Health Ministry has also turned to the European Commission over the possibility to donate Pfizer vaccines, but the EC is still negotiating donation conditions with the company, which is expected to be completed as soon as possible, but specific dates are not disclosed.

Lithuania plans to donate 200,000 vaccines to Eastern Partnership countries. Half of them would go to Ukraine, Moldova would receive 11,000 doses, and 15,000 would be delivered to Georgia.

Moreover, 20,000 doses would be donated to Taiwan.

Lithuania has so far received 3,338,755 vaccines and has used 2,421,815 of them.

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