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Government lost £200m on extra swine-flu vaccine

9 September 2010

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More than £200m was wasted by the government on excess swine flu vaccines and antivirals, figures have revealed.

Around £128m was lost in 2009 on extra stocks of vaccine to tackle the pandemic, according to Department of Health accounts.

Around £30m was spent on excess vaccine due to be delivered this year and in 2011 when the biggest part of the health crisis had ended.

A further £72.9m in antivirals were also scrapped because there was no “documentary evidence” that they were stored correctly.

“The worldwide surplus of swine flu vaccine means that there is no active market in which the Department’s excess pandemic flu inventory can be sold,” the document adds.

The accounts, reported in GP newspaper, also show a further £23.5m was lost on date-expired vaccine, including for avian flu purchased in previous years.

Dr Peter Holden, of the British Medical Association (BMA), said the figures were “peanuts” in comparison to the cost of a severe pandemic.

“It’s not just about keeping the nation at work, but keeping society running,” he said. “If you want 100% supply guarantee, it comes at a price.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “At the start of the outbreak, there was no way of knowing how virulent swine flu would be.

“The Department took the necessary steps to deal with a worse-case scenario in which it would have been necessary to vaccinate every member of the population twice.

“However, as the spread and virulence of the outbreak was less severe than first anticipated, less vaccine was needed.”

Copyright © Press Association 2010

Department of Health