| 12.8°C Dublin

HSE threw away e22m swine flu vaccines

More than €22m worth of vaccines were destroyed by the HSE after the swine flu pandemic.

The State bought about three million vaccines at a cost of €35m in response to the 2009 outbreak – but only 1.1 million of these were given to patients.

The HSE has confirmed that the remaining 1.9 million unused vaccines were sent for destruction.


An HSE spokesman said pandemic vaccine came in multi-dose vials, with each containing 10 doses.

"At the end of every vaccination session, any opened unused vials were sent for destruction by GPs, hospitals or mass vaccination clinics," he said.

The spokesman added that in addition to the opened unused vials, any unopened packs of vaccinations were sent back to the National Cold Chain Service, which organises vaccine storage and distribution for the HSE.

All these vaccines "were sent for destruction along with the remaining stock that was purchased but never distributed".

Asked for the cost of the unused vaccines, the spokesman said this was "commercially sensitive information".

Vaccine costs, however, were revealed in a recent Department of Health review on the medical response to the swine flu pandemic, which said €35m was spend on vaccinations.

The review recommended that since the numbers who became ill fell well below expectations, future plans should be flexible enough to be able to respond to less than the "worst-case" scenario.

The HSE spokesman stressed that the executive "had to purchase contingency stock to be able to vaccinate as many as possible" during the pandemic.

"This situation was mirrored in other European countries," he added.


The swine flu pandemic cost the State a total of €70m, which included the €35m spent on vaccines, a further €30m spent on anti-viral drugs and €6.5m on equipment such as ventilators and dialysis machines for hospital intensive care units to treat those who became ill.

More than 1,000 people were admitted to hospital during the pandemic and 100 of these needed intensive care treatment. Twenty-nine people died.