Press Release
February 21, 2023

Tolentino wants better disposal procedure for 'wasted' COVID vaccines

MANILA - Senator Francis 'Tol' N. Tolentino asked the Department of Health (DOH) to find a way on how to properly dispose the reported millions of expired doses of procured and donated COVID-19 vaccines in the country amid its potential risk to public health and safety.

"Any discussions on this? What do we do with these? What do we do with these because environmentally, these might not be safe... how do you dispose? Susunugin, ibabaon sa lupa, itatapon sa Pacific Ocean? Papano?" Tolentino, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee asked DOH officials present during Tuesday's Senate inquiry over the non-disclosure provision enshrined in the vaccine procurement contracts by the government.

Tolentino raised concern over the potential "deleterious effects" of not properly disposing the unused but expired COVID vaccines, considering that some types of vaccines were either "protein-based" or contains inactivated virus.

Based on the health department's inventory last December, there were about 44 million doses that had been wasted, including the 24.6-million doses that had gone unused past their shelf life and the 6.7 million that were discarded due to "operational" lapses in their storage or handling according to DOH officer-in-charge Usec. Ma. Rosario Vergeire

"Anong gagawin natin dito sa 44 million? Gagawin ba natin itong pataba? Gagawin natin itong aspalto? Saan natin gagamitin ito environmentally? Is this considered as hazardous waste? Where do we dump this including the vials? Where do we throw this away? Ibabaon natin sa lupa, anong gagawin natin dito? Any recommendation from the DOH? I-cremate ba natin ito, anong gagawin natin? Baka makadagdag pa ito sa climate change kung itapon lang natin," Tolentino added,

Former National Task Force (NTF) deputy chief implementer and Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) chair Vince Dizon told Tolentino's panel that a facility inside the New Clark City in Tarlac Province will be the site where the unused-expired vaccines will be disposed.

But the senator has expressed doubts and hesitation over the supposed location of the disposal site, considering that the facility is just few kilometers away from the 'Athlete's Village' where several members of the Philippine national team are currently having their respective training for upcoming local and international sports tournaments.

"Doon nag training (ang) mga athletes natin. (Kapag) nag jo-jogging doon, pa singhot-singhot doon--baka ma-high yung mga iyan dyan sa mga sa virus na ibabaon niyo dun," Tolentino explained to Dizon.

Meanwhile, Tolentino asked the Office of the Solicitor General if they can see a little window on how the national government can 'legally' exchange the accumulated COVID-19 vaccines about to expire to another form of vaccine or medicine coming from the same pharmaceutical companies which can be utilized locally.

"Yung pwedeng gamitin pa, halimbawa, anti-polio, anti-measles anti-tuberculosis. Palit nalang, hindi na natin magagamit itong nabili na natin... ipalit nalang doon sa ibang produkto nila na baka pwede din naman magamit sa iba at magamit din natin kahit palugi na basta magamit natin dahil saying," Tolentino stressed.

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