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Millions of swine flu shots wasted

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Photo: DPA
08:02 CEST+02:00
Germany is stuck with €250 million worth of swine flu vaccine ordered during the height of the flu panic last winter but never used because the mass immunisation campaign was a failure, according to a Friday media report.

Health authorities across Germany's 16 states still have 30 million shots left over. In the large western state of North Rhine-Westphalia alone has 6.4 million doses, the WAZ newspaper reported.

Desperate efforts to sell off at least part of the surplus stock to other countries had so far failed, a spokeswoman for the Lower Saxony Health Ministry confirmed to the paper.

Lower Saxony has been looking for buyers on behalf of all the states. The spokeswoman said there had been interest from several countries including Albania, Moldova, Macedonia, Kosovo and Mongolia. But with fear about swine flu sinking rapidly, no one yet has been prepared to fork out money for the left-over stock.

Some 222,006 people in Germany have been confirmed infected by swine flu, 226 of whom have died, according to the website flucount.org.

Widespread media attention and community panic last year drove health authorities to go to great lengths to buy enough of the vaccine for a mass immunisation program.

But the effort at mass immunisation failed. And after interest in the flu died down, the supply of the vaccine ended up grossly outweighing the demand.

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In North Rhine-Westphalia, barely 1 million people were immunised, leaving the state with 6.4 million surpluses doses, worth about €53.3 million.

Time is running out. The vaccines have a use-by date of around the middle of next year.

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