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Unused swine flu vaccine turns into hazardous waste


Swine flu vaccine left over from the winter 2009/2010 vacination campaign expires these days and therefore has to be disposed. Due to the content of mercury added as Thimerosal (also known as Thiomersal) to most of the vaccines that depending on the manufacturer can reach 25-50 ppm in the vaccine, the left overs have to be handled as "hazardous waste".

Even as health officials are warning of a possible third wave of the H1N1 virus, or swine flue, this spring, millions of doses of surplus vaccine are about to be destroyed. In the US, only 90 million of the 162 million vaccine doses produced were administered and much of the unused vaccine has expired or soon will.

"The (vaccine) products have various expiration dates, depending on when they were produced," said Tom Skinner of the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Normally leftover flu vaccine is shipped to the state health department. But since the swine flu vaccine program was through the federal government, no one is sure what to do with the leftover vaccine.

"I don't have an exact number," he said. "But we are preparing a plan to share with the public very soon on proper disposal of vaccines or return of the vaccines for disposal."

Skinner noted the CDC paid $1.6 billion to four manufacturers to produce 229 million H1N1 doses. Of that number, 162 million doses were produced, 90 million of which were administered nationally. An estimated 71 million doses of the swine flu vaccine with looming expiration dates will have to be discarded, according to a recent Washington Post report. Another 60 million doses are being shipped to underdeveloped countries, or set aside for possible future use.

Interestingly Guidance documents provided by Health Departments forsee the handling of expired vaccines as "biomedical  waste" that is allowed to be dumped at a municipal solid waste lanfill in quantities less than 100 pounds. It seems that these guidance documents fail to recognoize the mercury content of the vaccine that according to EPA turns the vaccine into "hazardous waste". 


The ratio of unused to ordered doses of the vaccines in Europe is even higher. For example in Germany only about 10% of the population received the vaccine.

Meanwhile, The World Health Organization (WHO) faces mounting charges that it overreacted to the pandemic. It is alleged that the Geneva based arm of the United Nations was influenced by pharmaceutical companies to exaggerate the risk, thereby helping in vaccine sales. Nevertheless, WHO has launched an internal review of its response and announced that a committee of 29 outside experts would conduct an independent assessment.

Related documentation:

Wikipedia: 2009 flu pandemic by country
Wikipedia: 2009 flu pandemic summary
WHO: Pandemic (H1N12) 2009  (Update)

Related News

WHO, April 12, 2010: Experts begin their assessment of the response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic

EVISA News, September 24, 2009: Huge field experiment for assessing human ethylmercury risk starting in october

last time modified: May 20, 2024

Gee Whiz
Its surprising people have been injecting hazardous waste into their bodies to prevent what has been provento be a dud of an epidemic.
May be the hazardous waste in their bodies will create another epidemic in a few years.
2011--0-1-  Anonymous Coward

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